Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

More Clarity to New Illinois Map has Republicans Feeling More Competitive

In Reapportionment on June 1, 2011 at 5:24 pm

The Illinois legislature made some final changes to the base congressional map, such as putting Reps. Tim Johnson (R-IL-15) and John Shimkus (R-IL-19) back in separate districts instead of pairing them, and then sent the legislation on to Gov. Pat Quinn (D). Democrats will make substantial gains in the state but, now that the political numbers have become public, the Republicans feel they are more competitive.

Originally, some analysts believed the Democrats would change the 11R-8D map to 13D-5R. Illinois loses a seat in reapportionment, thus explaining the difference in the total number. Taking a careful look at the political performances in races other than the 2008 presidential contest show that Republicans could fare better, possibly confining their losses to a net of three or four seats instead of five.

More information is unfolding as incumbents and party officials make statements. Once the map is signed into law, expect the Republican Party to file a lawsuit, challenging the fact that only one Hispanic district was drawn. Hispanics are a greater population than African-Americans in the state (2.02 million to 1.87 million according to the 2010 census) yet, under this new map, they have only one seat (Rep. Luis Gutierrez’s 4th district) versus three for African-Americans (Districts 1-Bobby Rush, 2-Jesse Jackson, Jr., and 7-Danny Davis. Republicans will argue that the “packing” of Hispanics should void the map. They clearly believe the drawing of a second Hispanic seat will help them in surrounding areas.

Turning to the political data, combining the results of the 2008 presidential race (Barack Obama defeating John McCain) with the 2010 Senate (Republican Mark Kirk beating Democrat Alexi Giannoulias) and gubernatorial races (Gov. Quinn nipping state legislator Bill Brady), a better feel can be obtained for the new 18 districts.

The Obama race cuts both ways. First, it is legitimate to believe that the Democratic number skews high in this race because the president is, of course, Illinois’ native son and the state’s 2008 numbers were among his best in the country. On the other hand, he will be back on the ballot in 2012, so the Republican incumbents and challengers will have to overcome his presence while fighting in substantially new territory.

Taking all three aforementioned races into consideration does make Republican prospects appear a bit better. First, there are six seats where Democrats swept each of the 2008 and 2010 studied races. They are new districts 1 (Rush), 2 (Jackson), 4 (Gutierrez), 5 (Mike Quigley), 7 (Davis), and 9 (Jan Schakowsky). These Democratic incumbents are clearly safe, realistically for the balance of the ensuing decade.

One district gave the Democratic candidate two of three victories. Dan Lipinski in the IL-3 will represent a reliable Democratic district, but one in which a Republican could win under certain circumstances. Mark Kirk, in 2010, carried the district by a 48-46 percent margin. The average Republican vote extrapolated over the three studied races is 44.0 percent.

Another Democratic seat only turned in one D victory in the three races. The downstate 12th district of Rep. Jerry Costello actually yielded Republican victories in the Senate (51-43 percent) and governor’s (50-44 percent) races. The average Republican vote is 48.3 percent, suggesting that this race could become competitive in an open seat situation, but is likely safe for Costello since 93 percent of the territory is from his old 12th CD.

Two seats are strongly Republican. The new 15th district that houses Rep. John Shimkus, is the most solid GOP seat in the state, scoring an average of 63.0 percent in the three races. Rep. Aaron Schock’s18th CD registers 62.7 percent.

Seven seats saw Republicans winning two of the three studied campaigns, with the president carrying the district in every case. Three of these districts, however, show the Republican average as dropping below 50 percent. The new open 8th CD is likely to go Democratic in an incumbent-less race. The GOP average there is 45.3 percent. The new 11th CD, where Rep. Judy Biggert would likely run, but is already being opposed by former Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL-14), turns in a 44.3 percent average Republican vote. And, in the Quad Cities region, freshman Rep. Bobby Schilling only sees an average Republican vote of 48.7 percent, but the seat is culturally more conservative than this partisan voting history suggests. In a re-match with defeated Rep. Phil Hare (D), Schilling would have a fighting chance to survive.

Rep. Peter Roskam’s 6th district appears favorable for him with an average Republican vote of 55.7 percent. Three potential pairings exist for the GOP, which is their biggest problem. Rep. Tim Johnson could challenge Shimkus in the new 15th, or run for re-election in the new 13th, where is house now resides. IL-13 is still majority Republican, but certainly not as strong as District 15. It is likely that Reps. Randy Hultgren and Joe Walsh will square off in new District 14, with Reps. Don Manzullo and Adam Kinzinger doing battle in the new 16th. Both latter districts produce an average 55.7 percent Republican vote.

Now that the political numbers are becoming known, it appears the Democrats can count seven wins in their column with three more seats leaning their way. The Republicans appear solid in five with one more leaning toward their party. Two seats figure to be toss-ups. Should the Democrats sweep the state in 2012, then a 12D-6R party division is the likely outcome. If Republicans rebound, then a 10D-8R final score is in the realm of possibility.
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