Candidates in 11th Congressional tout backgrounds as the difference
Updated: May 7, 2012 1:27AM
Thanks to the new U.S. Congressional remap, Illinois’ 11th Congressional District is a whole new district, and a trio of Democratic candidates believe it’s time for new representation, too.
“I’m running because we need to have common, working-class people representing us in Congress,” said candidate Jim Hickey of Orland Park, who will go up against Juan Thomas of Aurora and former congressman Bill Foster on the March 20 primary ballot.
Hickey is making his first run for political office. In recent years, Hickey said, he has grown accustomed to change. A licensed Realtor and mortgage originator, his business fell victim to the economy. Hickey now works as director of business development at Peace Village, a retirement community in his hometown of Orland Park.
“These are very, very hard times,” Hickey said.
In the months approaching the March 20 election, Hickey said he walked several hundred miles in a door-to-door effort to introduce himself to constituents. As of early February, Hickey said he had visited more than 17,000 homes and personally called more than 3,000 voters.
Both Hickey and Thomas are pursuing higher degrees, and both consider themselves members of the “working class.”
Thomas has won four of five local election campaigns in the last 15 years, holding the position of School Board member in the West Aurora district, as well as Aurora Township Clerk.
Re-elected clerk in 2009, he stepped down to serve a church in New Orleans.
After earning a degree in political science from Morehouse College in Atlanta, he received his law degree and master’s in educational policy studies degree from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. Thomas is completing a master of arts degree in religious studies at the University of Chicago Divinity School.
Thomas is an attorney in private practice, having founded The Thomas Group in Aurora in 2003. His practice include real estate/estate planning, governmental compliance and family law.
The two newcomers will face Foster, a scientist and businessman, for the chance to take on the Republican candidate in November.
Foster, of Naperville, served from 2008-11 as representative of Illinois’ 14th Congressional District. He was the first Democrat to represent the district in more than 60 years.
Foster lost a 2010 bid for re-election.
At 19, Foster entered the business world by co-founding Electronic Theatre Controls, Inc. with his younger brother. The company now manufactures over half of the theater lighting equipment in the United States and provides hundreds of American jobs, according to Foster’s campaign.
During his career as a physicist at Fermilab, Foster played a leading role in several groundbreaking experiments in elementary particle physics. He also managed several multimillion dollar accelerator construction and research projects, and led teams of engineers and physicists to help build the latest round of Fermilab’s giant particle accelerators.
Foster said a top priority of Congress should be spurring job creation to get the economy moving.