“I’ve been through some tough races, really tough races,” Senger said. “In ’08 with Obama on top of the ballot, that was also the year here that Speaker [Michael] Madigan wanted to get the supermajority in the [state] House and he needed four seats and mine was one of them. And so I totally get how these things work and what you’re up against. And boy, if you don’t know that going into this, you’re in for a rough ride.”
The 11th District includes exurbs southwest of Chicago, as well as two Democratic strongholds — Aurora and Joliet. Foster defeated Rep. Judy Biggert, R-Ill., by 18 points last year.
But Republicans are encouraged by their prospects there anyway. Democratic voters drop off significantly in the district in non-presidential cycles. Also, Senger and Miller boast the kind of moderate backgrounds that Republicans say are necessary to win there.
They also argue a fundraising edge is necessary in a general election against Foster.
Not only is Foster a self-made businessman with $591,000 in the bank, but the 11th District is an expensive area to run television spots. It includes the pricey Chicago media market.
“Senger’s people argue her narrative plays a really good contrast to Foster,” one local Republican operative said. “Obviously, she’s a woman who has been involved in politics for a long time. She was part of the conference committee on pension reform, so she can talk about that. However my feeling is you need to have someone who can raise money in a district that’s tough.”
To be sure, Miller — a political unknown — will still have a tough road to defeat Senger, whose name has been on the ballot before in a chunk of the district.
But if Miller wins the primary, it wouldn’t be the first time this cycle that a self-made businessman upset a House race — especially in Illinois. Foster accomplished a similar feat when he won a special election in 2008.
Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., brings a cake reading "Under New Management" to the Republican senate luncheons in the Capitol, November 13, 2014. The cake was inspired by one the former Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., once brought.