Foster, Rashid face off at 11th Congressional District forum in Naperville

March 19 primary will determine Democratic candidate for congress

Bill Foster, left, and Qasim Rashid are democratic candidates for congress in the 11th district.

Challenger Qasim Rashid insisted that he and U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, D-Naperville, have “two competing visions” at a candidates forum on Wednesday.

Rashid, also of Naperville, is running against Foster in the Democratic primary on March 19.

The forum at Nichols Library in Naperville was repeatedly interrupted by audience outbursts and protests aimed at incumbents Foster and U.S. Rep. Sean Casten, D-Downers Grove, who was among 6th District candidates participating in the event.

Foster left halfway through the event to attend a town meeting, also held in Naperville, that his spokesman said had been scheduled before the forum was arranged.

While he was at the forum there, Foster and Rashid fielded questions on campaign funding, Israel, and Gaza.

“I have been a strong voice for getting special interests out of politics,” Foster said, pointing to support for legislation to weaken the influence of “big money.”

Foster acknowledged getting contributions from environmental organizations and unions, noting groups likely to be well received by a Democratic audience.

But Rashid repeatedly pointed to corporate contributions to Foster, noting more than once that his opponent has gotten money from Exxon Mobil and claiming that healthcare companies and banks have influenced Foster votes.

“Our campaign is the only campaign in this race that is 100% people funded,” Rashid said. “I do not take money from any corporate PACs.”

The two candidates also squared off over the Israeli military action in Gaza.

“I have been calling for a ceasefire,” Rashid said, criticizing Foster for finding fault in the Israeli military action while falling short of calling for Israel to stop..

Foster said the U.S. should hold Israel to standards as it conducts war amid a civilian population.

“But I do believe in Israel’s right to exist,” he said, pointing to the Hamas raids in October that set off the Gaza attack.

Foster also steered a question focused on the Gaza crisis to the war in Ukraine.

“Ukraine is the most important issue in front of Congress right now,” he said, insisting that the United States and its allies should continue to support the defense of Ukraine’s borders.

Rashid at times steered questions to the issue of healthcare, criticizing Foster for not backing universal health insurance. Rashid made the issue personal, discussing his reliance on Affordable Care Act coverage that will not pay the $250,000-a-year cost for a medication needed by his daughter for an autoimmune disease.

“This is not a political issue for me,” he said. “My daughter’s life literally depends on it.”

Rashid is a human rights attorney, who grew up in DuPage County and whose parents immigrated from Pakistan when he was 5 years old. He pointed to his background, including living in Section 8 housing as a child.

Foster often points to his own background as a scientist and small business owner. He made the points again Wedneday, saying the experience is helpful as Congress deals with questions about the use of artificial intelligence.

Foster has been in Congress since 2008. He has been the congressman for the 11th District since 2011.

The borders of the sprawling 11th District were redrawn in 2020. It wraps around much of the Chicago area, including sections of Will, McHenry, Kane, Kendall, DeKalb and Cook counties as it reaches from the Wisconsin border nearly to Indiana.

Bob Okon

Bob Okon

Bob Okon covers local government for The Herald-News