APS News

Foster Victory Adds 2nd Physicist to Congress

U.S. Rep. Bill Foster (IL-14th)

Rep. Bill Foster (IL-14th)

On Election Day, physicist Bill Foster regained an Illinois Congressional seat, after having been defeated in 2010. The Democrat joins Rush Holt (D-N.J.), thereby doubling the number of physicists in Congress. He unseated Republican Judy Biggert, who had been a member of Congress for fourteen years, serving during all that time on the House Science Committee.

Foster started as a researcher at Fermilab in 1984. He was part of the team that wrote the software for the CDF detector collaboration that discovered the top quark in 1995. He also helped design and manage the construction of the Tevatron’s recycler ring.

Foster was first elected to the Illinois 14th Congressional district in a special election in 2008 after former house speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) stepped down. The district encompassed the cities of Aurora and Batavia, home to many of the physicists who work at nearby Fermilab.

In 2010, Foster lost his seat to Randy Hultgren as part of the Republican takeover of the House.

Following the 2010 census, the Congressional district lines were redrawn, splitting up Biggert’s old district and reforming the 11th over some of the areas that used to encompass Foster’s 14th. The redrawn district abuts Fermilab and Argonne National Lab. After a campaign that focused on the importance of science, Foster won the district with 56 percent of the vote.  

In his victory speech, Foster thanked Biggert for her years of service in the House, and called for more bipartisanship and cooperation in the legislature.

“Our nation faces tough problems–more than a decade in the making. And there is no doubt that compromise will be required to resolve these problems,” Foster said in his speech.

In her concession speech, Biggert echoed Foster’s call for bipartisanship.

“Our county has faced so many challenges and the only way that they will be met is by reaching across party lines, setting aside the differences and caring more about the solutions than the sound bites or the next election,” she said.

The importance of scientific research to America’s economy was a central theme of Foster’s campaign. Previously he served on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, and will likely return.
“Investments in basic scientific research are among the highest return on investment of any that our society can make,” his website read. “[K]eeping the technological pipeline full–from basic research, to technology development, to market driven deployment of advanced manufacturing technologies–is crucial to our country’s long term economic health.”

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Editor: Alan Chodos