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State Senator May Enter GOP Primary Against Hastert

It appears that attorney Ethan Hastert (R) may not have a clear path in his effort to take back his father’s former Congressional seat as state Sen. Randy Hultgren (R) is actively exploring Illinois’ 14th district race, according to local GOP sources. Republicans are targeting Rep. Bill Foster (D), who won the seat in a spring 2008 special election after former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R), Ethan’s father, resigned. A personal and bitter GOP primary, coupled with President George W. Bush’s declining job approval ratings, contributed to Foster’s victory. Republicans are hoping to avoid a replay of last year, but it’s unclear how the GOP primary will play out.It looked like Hastert, who has been building his campaign for months and raising money, was going to avoid a serious threat, especially since Republicans in Illinois expect state Sen. Chris Lauzen (R) to run for re-election. Lauzen narrowly lost to wealthy dairy magnate Jim Oberweis, who was endorsed by Dennis Hastert in the 2008 primary, and the feud between Lauzen and the former Speaker is widely known. Lauzen represents a large chunk of the 14th district and may encourage his supporters to support Hultgren over another Hastert. Hultgren’s legislative district is split between the 14th and the 6th district, which is represented by Rep. Peter Roskam (R). Hultgren was elected to replace Roskam in the state Senate in 2006. Hultgren hasn’t made a final decision, but according to Illinois sources, he’s talking to a number of experienced local operatives. He may not represent a large share of Republican primary voters, but if he can tap into Lauzen’s support and into people who weren’t happy the way Speaker Hastert left office and gave Democrats an opportunity, the primary could develop into a serious contest. Former Defense Department civilian employee Mark Vargas, property maintenance manager Jeff Danklefsen and former Aurora Councilman Bill Cross are also interested in running. Vargas had been exploring a bid against Rep. Melissa Bean (D) in the 8th district. Former state Sen. Steve Rauschenberger (R) is expected to run for his former seat instead of running for Congress. Because of the Feb. 2 primary, candidates are already circulating petitions in advance of the November filing deadline.

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