Illinois has turned bluer in recent elections as the historically Republican suburbs of Chicagoland have increasingly leaned toward Democrats.
Republicans had hoped to reverse some of those gains, but the influence and preferences of the party’s rural base in this week’s primaries could make that difficult.
Meanwhile, the state will adjust to a major reshuffling of the map of congressional districts by the Democratic-controlled legislature that brought together several House incumbents in the same districts.
Democratic Governor JB Pritzker, heir to a billionaire hotel, is seeking a second term. Pritzker has had a checkered tenure, working with Democratic majorities in the legislature to enact liberal legislation and leading the state through the coronavirus pandemic — but also fostering discontent among conservative Republicans, especially in areas outside of Chicagoland. .
Fellow billionaire Ken Griffin — Pritzker’s longtime Republican foil — has spent millions trying to spur Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin in the GOP primary. Irvin, who is black and holds moderate positions, is widely seen as a strong contender in the general election.
“Bailey would be a disaster in the suburbs and hurt Republicans,” said Kent Redfield, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Illinois at Springfield. “If Irvin loses and Griffin decides not to support the Republican candidates in the general election, the Democrats could retain their supermajority in the legislature and their control of all state offices. Irvin could be the Republican’s last chance to start making a difference.
In an unexpected move, Griffin announcement days before the primary that he would move his hedge fund from Chicago to Miami, citing crime and other social ills. It is not known whether this announcement will have an impact on the primary or the general election.
Meanwhile, a few other Republicans are also on the primary ballot: former state senator Paul Schrimpf, construction company CEO Gary Rabine and attorney and pastor Max Solomon.
Incumbent Democratic Attorney General Kwame Raoul, a Chicago native, is the frontrunner heading into November, but the GOP has a competitive primary with the potential to produce a credible nominee.
The credible candidate would be Steve Kim, a moderate Asian American backed by Griffin. But first, Kim would have to outrun two other Republicans: Tom Devore, a pro-Trump attorney who has filed several unsuccessful lawsuits against Pritzker and the state government, and David Shestokas, who work with Rudy Giuliani to tout election plots after the 2020 presidential race.
Having Devore or Shestokas as the attorney general’s nominee alongside Bailey for governor “would reinforce the Democratic narrative that the Illinois Republican Party has become an extreme, conservative Trump party,” Redfield said. “That would put the Democrats in all-out attack mode in the fall and the Republican moderates would take cover.”
A Chicago Sun-Times/WBEZ poll found Kim and DeVore tied, with many voters still undecided about the race.
Unlike most states, Illinois does not vest election administration powers in its Secretary of State. Instead, the position handles matters such as motor vehicle registration and the management of the state archives and library.
Yet the position has always been a political springboard. Three of the four occupants since the mid-1970s have gone on to be elected to higher office: Democrat Alan Dixon as US Senator and Republicans Jim Edgar and George Ryan as Governor.
The incumbent since 1999, Democrat Jesse White, is retiring this year, and the seat he leaves behind has attracted a wide range of credible candidates from both parties.
The leading Democratic candidates in the primary are former State Treasurer and U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias, Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia and Chicago Alderman David Moore.
The Republican primary pits state Rep. Dan Brady against former federal prosecutor John Milhiser. Analysts say the secretary of state could become Republicans’ best shot at winning statewide elected office this year.
1st Congressional District
Longtime Democratic Representative Bobby Rush — the only politician to defeat Barack Obama, eight years before Obama won the presidency — is retiring. The vacancy in this staunchly Democratic and heavily black neighborhood has drawn a long list of Democratic primary hopefuls.
Rush has approved Karin Norington-Reaves, the former head of the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, but there are 17 other candidates in the race, including State Senator Jacqueline Collins, Chicago Alderman Pat Dowell, Reverend Chris Butler and Professor Jonathan Jackson, a son of civil rights activist Jesse Jackson.
Whoever wins the primary is a lock to win the seat in November.
3rd congressional district
Following the redistricting, incumbent Democratic Rep. Marie Newman decided not to run in that redrawn district, which is now the Chicago area’s second heavily Hispanic seat.
The open seat remains Democratic and four candidates are vying for the party’s nomination.
The precursors in the race are State Representative Delia Ramirez and Alderman Gilbert Villegas. Ramirez has received support from key national progressive figures and neighboring Democratic Rep. Chuy Garcia, while Villegas is seen as more moderate. Villegas was endorsed by former U.S. Representative Luis Gutierrez, as well as White, the outgoing secretary of state.
6th congressional district
The 6th Ward, which covers part of the Chicago suburbs, is hosting one of two home races between incumbents and incumbents in Illinois this year. In that contest, Newman is running against fellow Democrat Sean Casten now that parts of their districts have been merged into one.
Like the race in the 3rd arrondissement, this competition pits a progressive, Newman, against a moderate, Casten. Casten leads the fundraiser.
The district leans Democratic, but not heavily, making it a competitive district for the general election.
The GOP has six candidatessome of whom could be credible fall candidates if they win the nomination: energy consultant Niki Conforti, Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau, Burr Ridge Mayor Gary Grasso, engineer and lawyer Scott Kaspar, real estate professional Catherine O’Shea and businessman Rob Cruz.
13th congressional district
This newly created district — which includes parts of central Illinois including Champaign, Decatur and Springfield — was designed to be a rare district outside the Chicago area that Democrats could win. The Democrats have an advantage, but it’s close enough that the district can be competitive in November, especially if the national political environment continues to tilt toward the GOP.
Two Democrats are in the running in primary: Nikki Budzinski, who worked in the Biden administration’s Office of Management and Budget and as an aide to Pritzker and Hillary Clinton, and David Palmer, a small business owner and former professional basketball player who runs with a more progressive profile.
Four Republicans are on the ballot: philanthropist Regan Deering, engineer and nonprofit executive Matt Hausman, nonprofit public broadcasting agency founder Terry Martin, and Jesse Reising, an attorney who worked for the US Department of Justice and in the private sector.
14th congressional district
That seat is held by Democratic Rep. Lauren Underwood, who narrowly won in 2020. She is favored for re-election but will likely face a competitive race in the fall.
Five Republicans are functioning in the primary to face Underwood: Kendall County Board Chairman Scott Gryder, Army veteran and talk show host Mike Koolidge, businessman and pro-Trump activist Jack Lombardi , Kendall County Republican Party Leader Jim Marter and Manufacturing Manager Jaime Milton.
15th congressional district
This is the other district where two incumbent members of the House face each other, in this case a pair of Republicans: Rodney Davis and Mary Miller.
“The district will be represented by a Republican after the general election, but the primary will determine what type of Republican,” Redfield said.
While the two campaign as conservatives, Davis presents herself more as a pro-business candidate while Miller presents herself more as a pro-Trump true believer.
Davis voted with Democrats to establish the House Investigative Committee on Jan. 6, which may have prompted Trump to endorse Miller. The former president held a rally outside Quincy, Ill., to support Miller’s candidacy.
“Davis was elected to Congress five times in a conservative, but not far-right, district,” Redfield said. In contrast, “Miller won in a very conservative, far-right rural district.”
The neighborhood understand rural areas of central and southern Illinois, with Democratic-leaning urban areas kept away from the district. He is a solid Republican.
17th congressional district
Democrats redesigned this neighborhood to connect several urban areas outside of Chicago, including Rockford, the Quad Cities, Peoria, Bloomington and Normal. It should be very competitive in November, especially since Democratic Representative Cheri Bustos has decided to retire, leaving the seat without an incumbent.
Six Democrats are functioning in the primary: Rock Island County Board Member Angie Normoyle, meteorologist Eric Sorensen, former state Representative Litesa Wallace, Rockford Alderman Jonathan Logemann, cannabis lobbyist Jacqueline McGowan and activist Marsha Williams.
Two Republicans are seeking the nomination, both veterans: Charlie Helmick and Esther Joy King.
“The Democrats need to take this seat in order to take full advantage of their new map of Congress,” Redfield said.