A Marine veteran claimed the Republican nomination Tuesday night in a northwest and west suburban congressional district.
Larry Kaifesh, 46, a political newcomer, declared victory with 71 percent of the vote to 29 percent for rookie Manju Goel, with 77 percent of precincts reporting unofficial results.
"It feels great," Kaifesh said to reporters before speaking to supporters at a Roselle bowling alley. "We worked long and we worked hard. I'm just happy that our message got out there and resonated with the people."
Kaifesh, a colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve, played up his military service and commitment to rein in the national debt as he drew support from several Republican township organizations.
Goel, 48, an efficiency consultant from Aurora, raised about twice as much cash as Kaifesh and was counting on a heavy turnout from the district’s Indian-American community. She immigrated from India in the 1980s and received support from a U.S.-based Indian-American political group.
Kaifesh and Goel were part of a new crop of Republican contenders battled in Tuesday’s congressional primaries as the party plots its revenge this fall against Democrats who captured several suburban seats in 2012.
In the crowded 11th District, Grundy County Board member Chris Balkema, state Rep. Darlene Senger and Hinsdale businessman Bert Miller are leading two others. Balkema and Senger both had about 33 percent of the vote to Miller’s 25 percent with more than 24 percent of precincts reporting, according to unofficial results early Tuesday evening.
The candidates are vying to take on U.S. Rep. Bill Foster in November in the southwest and west suburban district.
In the 11th District, Senger and about 20 supporters gathered at Bella Familia, an Italian restaurant in the historic Fifth Avenue Station on the edge of downtown Naperville.The group applauded as the three-term state lawmaker entered the multi-story wood-beam lobby decorated with her campaign signs. Senger called the campaign “a series of positives.”
“We’ve had a really good volunteer base, a good ground game going the whole time,” she said. “Lots of phone calls, lots of signs out there today. Good support and endorsement from people.”
At the Miller headquarters in Joliet, supporters and family members gathered with the candidate at a party feature pizza, In the northwest and west suburbs, 8th District Republicans picked between a Marine veteran and an efficiency consultant to challenge freshman U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran.
Tuesday’s winners will join other GOP challengers who avoided primary races as they seek to unseat Democrats in the fall. That includes a rematch between former Republican Rep. Robert Dold of Kenilworth and freshman Democrat Rep. Brad Schneider of Deerfield in the north suburban 10th District.
Come November, Democrats are largely expected to be fighting to retain their 12-6 advantage in the Illinois delegation as the party looks elsewhere in the country to win the seats needed to take back the U.S. House.
Democrat incumbents control most of Chicago’s suburban districts, thanks to a string of victories in 2012 based on district maps redrawn by ruling Democrats in Springfield following the last census.
Incumbents from both parties faced little primary opposition in the Chicago area.
“I feel good about it,” Miller said. “We started this thing five months ago and assembled a great team. There would be no regrets, even if we lose, but I am remaining optimistic.”