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As thousands of Chicagoans cheered the resounding victory of hometown son and now President-elect Obama on Tuesday night, Illinois Democrats were also celebrating the pickup of one House seat with the landslide election of state Senate Majority Leader Debbie Halvorson (D).
Halvorson won the seat held for seven terms by retiring Rep. Jerry Weller (R), who enjoyed easy re-election races in the swing 11th district, which stretches from the southwestern Chicago suburbs to Bloomington. Halvorson, a polished pol who has represented part of the Congressional district during her 10 years in the state Senate, beat out political newcomer Martin Ozinga (R) 58 percent to 35 percent.
Halvorsons election comes just eight months after Democrats picked up the seat once held by former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R), whose retirement in March paved the way for the victory of now-Rep. Bill Foster (D) over dairy magnate Jim Oberweis (R). The general election rematch between the two candidates proved less exciting than the special election, and Foster coasted to his first full term 57 percent to 43 percent.
Overall in the Midwest, three incumbents lost re-election and Democrats managed to squeeze a five-seat pickup out of the region. Democrats gained two seats each in Michigan and Ohio, in addition to the one in Illinois. All of those races were targeted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committees Red to Blue program.
Democrats stand to possibly gain one more pickup in the region, as the results of the open-seat contest in Ohios 15th district were unclear as of press time. Republicans are ahead in the race, but there are still a couple thousand votes to be counted.
There were, however, a few bright spots for the Illinois GOP on an otherwise big night for Democrats.
Rep. Mark Kirk (R), a four-term moderate from the Chicago suburbs, increased his winning percentage in his rematch against Democratic challenger Dan Seals. Kirk was able to stave off defeat despite his opponents attempt to tie the Republican to the unpopular Bush administration. He was re-elected to a fifth term 54 percent to 46 percent, slightly up from his 53-47 victory in 2006.
In the Peoria-based 18th district, 27-year-old state Rep. Aaron Schock (R) won 59 percent to 38 percent over one-time newscaster Colleen Callahan (D), becoming the youngest Member of the 111th Congress and the first born during Ronald Reagans presidency. Schock will succeed retiring Rep. Ray LaHood (R).
Not one Illinois incumbent lost Tuesday night. In the northwest suburban 8th district, voters re-elected perennial target Rep. Melissa Bean (D) 60 percent to 40 percent, her largest winning margin yet. And freshman Rep. Peter Roskam (R), of Chicagos near-west suburban 6th district, earned a second term with 58 percent of the vote.
But two Republican incumbents perished in Michigan, after both were heavily targeted for defeat by national Democrats.
Freshman Rep. Tim Walberg (R), who eked out a victory in 2006 against an underfunded Democratic challenger, lost his reelection bid to state Sen. Mark Schauer (D). While the 7th district in southern Michigan leans Republican, Schauer proved to be a formidable candidate, and, with more than $2 million raised, a well-funded one.