John Atkinson initially planned to challenge Democratic Southwest Side Rep. Dan Lipinkski from the current 3rd Congressional District. Atkinson, a business executive, had raised more than $535,000 in the first half of this year, federal election spending reports showed, including $270,000 that he loaned his campaign.
But in redrawing the state’s political borders following last year’s federal census, Democrats led by Lipinski ally Michael Madigan drew Atkinson into the new 11th Congressional District that stretches from New Lenox and Joliet north through Bolingbrook and takes in Burr Ridge on the northeast and Aurora on the northwest.
“After giving the matter careful consideration, I believe that it is in the best interest of my community and the state for me to suspend my exploratory campaign and support Bill Foster in his effort to become my congressman in the new 11th Congressional District,” Atkinson said in a statement.
Saying that Foster, of Batavia, has taken “courageous votes” on some issues, but that he does “not agree with him 100 percent of the time,” Atkinson said, “I think it’s more important for me to support a candidate like Bill Foster than to run against him just because I want to serve.”
Atkinson is a progressive activist who had chafed at Lipinski’s sometimes conservative social stances. Foster won a special election to replace retired Republican U.S. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Plano and then won a full two-year term before being ousted last November from the current far west suburban 14th District by Republican Randy Hultgren, a former state senator.
Atkinson’s decision is part of the early jockeying over Congress, even though Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has not signed into law the Democratic-passed redistricting map. The map was designed to unravel last year’s mid-term elections which saw Republicans pick up four seats and hold onto a fifth seat. The new map could give Democrats at least three of the new 18 seats.