CHICAGO (CBS)– Illinois State Sen. Jim Oberweis, owner of Oberweis Dairy, declared victory Wednesday in his quest to unseat Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Illinois) in the 14th Congressional District.
But Underwood herself did not concede, and her campaign instead slammed Oberweis for making such a declaration.
The district is located west of the immediate Chicago area and includes parts of Lake, McHenry, Kane, DeKalb, Kendall, DuPage, and Will counties from the southern boundary of Kendall County north to the Wisconsin state line.
Oberweis released a video on social media declaring victory after the race had been too close to call on election night.
“Today, after contacting every County Clerk across the 14th District, I am pleased to say that, with only a handful of outstanding ballots, it appears that I have won a tough fought campaign against Lauren Underwood,” Oberweis said. “This race has been an uphill battle to say the least. Lauren Underwood has enjoyed a tremendous financial advantage having outspent me 4-1. But despite all of the money she spent, we prevailed.”
Underwood was not pleased by the statement. Later Wednesday afternoon, her campaign released a statement of its own, saying she still expects to win.
“Jim Oberweis doesn’t get to call this election: the voters do. There are thousands of votes that have yet to be counted. We appreciate every voter who made their voice heard, and our county clerks and election officials must count every ballot in as expeditious and transparent a manner as is possible,” Underwood’s campaign said. “Based on publicly available data, we remain confident that once ballots are counted, this race will reflect that the voters have reelected Congresswoman Lauren Underwood.”
The Associated Press said with 100 percent of the precincts reporting, Oberweis was up 50.12 percent compared to 49.88 percent for Underwood, but had not called the race as of that time.
As CBS 2’s Tim McNicholas reported, Oberweis had earlier said the close race could come down to mail-in ballots and he is “cautiously optimistic.”
As CBS 2’s Jim Williams reported, Underwood was upbeat late Tuesday night.
“We’re still waiting for results, and yet I know we’re winning,” she said as she spoke to supporters.
On Wednesday, Underwood did no interviews. Her spokeswoman said, “Votes are being counted; the race remains too close to call.”
Oberweis earlier Wednesday said, “I did not get much sleep last night, I’ll tell you that.”
While the race has been close, Oberweis earlier said he preferred his slim lead.
“Well, we’re cautiously optimistic,” he said earlier in the day. “Obviously, I’d rather be up 895 votes than behind by 895 votes.”
Underwood surprised many two years when she was elected to Congress – an African-American Democrat in the majority white, traditionally Republican 14th District. Then 32, she was also the youngest Black woman to serve in the House.
The 14th is a large geographical area – from Lake County near the Wisconsin state line west to DeKalb County and south to Will County.
It is a mix of suburban subdivisions and farms.
We took a look at north and south ends of the district to see how the candidates did Tuesday. In Lake County, Oberweis, the dairy businessman and state senator, so far has 53 percent of just over 50,000 votes cast.
Underwood has 55 percent of just over 50,000 votes in Will County.
State election officials said 300,000 to 400,000 mail in ballots have to be counted across Illinois. It’s still being determined how many of those ballots are from the 14th District.
Underwood defeated incumbent Randy Hultgren in the 14th District in 2018, taking away a seat that had been held by the GOP for all but three years since 1939.
Oberweis has been a state senator since 2013, and has mounted failed bids for the U.S. Senate in 2002, 2004, and 2014; for governor in 2006, and for Congress in 2008.
In her campaign for a second term, Underwood touted her achievements in the House in health care – particularly amid the COVID-19 pandemic – as well as climate action, “cleaning up Washington,” reproductive freedom, preventing gun violence, and other subjects.
“During her first term in Congress, Lauren has hosted more than 25 public town hall meetings and 135 community events across the seven counties of the 14th District. She has passed four bipartisan pieces of legislation into law, including the Lower Insulin Costs Now Act to make lower-cost, generic insulin available more quickly for the families who rely on it,” the Underwood campaign website reads. “Since her swearing-in, Lauren has voted to support federal programs that brought over $1 billion dollars to the 14th to fund small business loans, cutting edge science at Fermilab, and other grants and federal contracts that support good jobs and services in our community.”
As of late October, Underwood’s campaign had about $1.8 million in cash on hand. Like many Democratic candidates, Underwood has received a large amount of money from ActBlue.
Underwood’s campaign has spent about $5.3 million since 2019. One of her campaign’s biggest recipients is Berger Hisrchberg, which handles somewhat bigger clients than the firms hired by the 6th Congressional District candidates. The firm touts it has raised more than $2 million for New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Oberweis, whose campaign website calls on supporters to help the GOP take back the House, addresses among other things border security, government spending, and a warning about “socialism.”
“It has become increasingly fashionable for Washington politicians to embrace socialism. Jim knows the inherent dangers of adopting socialist ideas – from wealth redistribution schemes to job-killing tax plans. Our nation was founded on the ideas of free enterprise and innovation, and Jim will support policies that enhance the free market and allow inventors, innovators, and job-creators to thrive. Socialism fails everywhere it is implemented, stifling creativity and freedom,” Oberweis’ campaign website reads. “Jim has been a staunch supporter of the free market in the state legislature and in his work in the private sector, and he will continue to champion the free market once elected to Congress.”
Oberweis had about $700,000 cash on hand as of late October. He is largely self-funding his campaign and has spent more than $1 million since the beginning of last year.
CBS 2’s Jim Williams and Tim McNicholas contributed to this report.
His campaign has spent about $2.3 million since 2017. Oberweis is also the biggest recipient of his campaign funds, receiving more than $500,000 in 2019. The reason for the expenditures is well-documented – including travel, fundraiser tickets, office supplies and other such needs.