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Physicist Bill Foster Returns to U.S. House of Representatives

In the end, it wasn't even close. Bill Foster, a Democrat and former particle physicist, handily defeated Republican incumbent Judy Biggert in the race in Illinois's newly redrawn 11th congressional district. With 95.7% of the vote counted, Foster led Biggert 57.6% to 42.4%. The issue of support for science had played an unusually prominent role in the campaign not only because Foster is a scientist, but also because Biggert has served on the House of Representatives science committee throughout her seven-term career. Biggert's old district encompassed the Department of Energy's (DOE's) Argonne National Laboratory, and part of the lab lies in the new 11th district.

Foster's win doubles the number of physicists in Congress, as Rush Holt, a plasma physicist and a Democrat from New Jersey's 12th district won his eighth term in the House. It also returns Foster to the House after a 2-year absence.

Foster was first elected to Congress in March 2008 in a special election in Illinois's 14th district to fill the seat vacated by Republican Dennis Hastert, the one-time speaker of the House who stepped down before his term ended. Foster won a full term in the general election in the following November, but he lost in 2010 to Republican Randy Hultgren, who also cruised to reelection on Tuesday. Illinois's 14th district contains DOE's Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, where Foster worked for 22 years before leaving in 2006.

Although he may not have needed the help, Foster's standing as a scientist served him well during the campaign. Records from the Federal Election Commission show that hundreds of scientists from all over the country donated nearly $400,000 to his campaign.

See more coverage on science and the U.S. 2012 elections.