Now that Tuesday’s Illinois primary produced a slate of nominees for both parties in the 18 congressional districts, the general election cycle officially begins. Illinois is the Democrats’ most gerrymandered state in the nation and the one place where they can make significant gains in House races.
To re-cap, the current delegation stands at 11R-8D. The state loses one seat in reapportionment, which forced GOP Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL-11) and Don Manzullo (R-IL-16) into the same district. Kinzinger, the freshman, proved to be the surprisingly easy 54-46 percent winner Tuesday night and faces only an Independent in the general election. The pairing of the two Republicans in the down-sized state, however, cost the GOP at least one seat.
The safe Democrats, based upon voter history and quality of GOP opponents are:
- District 1: Rep. Bobby Rush (D) – Obama ’08: 80.8%
- District 2: Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D) – Obama ’08: 81.1%
- District 3: Rep. Dan Lipinski (D) – Obama ’08: 58.3%
- District 4: Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D) – Obama ’08: 80.5%
- District 5: Rep. Mike Quigley (D) – Obama ’08: 69.8%
- District 7: Rep. Danny Davis (D) – Obama ’08: 89.4%
- District 9: Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D) – Obama ’08: 68.6%
The safe Republicans, based upon voter history and quality of Democratic opponents are:
- District 6: Rep. Peter Roskam (R) – Obama ’08: 51.3%
- District 14: Rep. Randy Hultgren (R) – Obama ’08: 50.6%
- District 15: Rep. John Shimkus (R) – Obama ’08: 42.8%
- District 16: Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R) – Obama ’08: 50.0%
- District 18: Rep. Adam Schock (R) – Obama ’08: 44.1%
Six districts will set the tone for the general election. The Democrats believe they can make a net gain of four seats. Originally, they thought a fifth seat was in their grasp, but Rep. Tim Johnson (R-IL-13) drew little in the way of primary opposition and the man who Democrats’ believed to be their best candidate appears to have lost Tuesday’s primary. With 2010 nominee David Gill clinging to a lead of 143 votes, now with 100 percent of the vote counted, it appears Johnson will face an opponent he has twice beaten. The 13th is much more Democratic than his previous 15th CD, but the 54.6 percent Obama score is one of the lesser in the state. Johnson now becomes the decided favorite in this new district that stretches from him home region in Champaign to the southwest through Decatur and Springfield.
But the real battles will come in the Chicago suburbs and western Illinois. In the new 8th District, probably the most difficult seat for the Republicans to hold, freshman Rep. Joe Walsh (R) is taking his chances in a tough general election instead of running this past Tuesday against fellow GOP freshman Randy Hultgren in the 14th CD. In a district where President Obama scored 61.5 percent, Walsh will face former Veterans Affairs Assistant Secretary Tammy Duckworth, a disabled Iraq War veteran, who challenged Rep. Peter Roskam in the 6th District back in 2006 when the seat was open and took 49 percent of the vote. Tuesday, Duckworth notched an impressive 67-33 percent win over former Deputy State Treasurer Raja Krishnamoorthi who spent over $1 million in the Democratic primary race. Ms. Duckworth begins the general election as the favorite to unseat Walsh.
In the new 10th CD, a district that encompasses the Chicago suburban territory north of the city and hugs Lake Michigan to the Wisconsin border, freshman Rep. Bob Dold (R) must defend his seat that gave 63.0 percent of its votes to President Obama in 2008. Dold is a strong campaigner and had the advantage of seeing the Democrats fight it out in a tough primary that produced attorney Brad Schneider as the nominee. Schneider scored a 47-39 percent win over activist Ilya Sheyman and two others. Sheyman was the liberal base candidate, so the Democratic turnout drive in the general may be lessened a bit. It is unlikely Obama will score as well here as he did four years ago, so Dold has a chance to survive despite the gaudy Democratic political numbers.
Rep. Judy Biggert (R) will face former Rep. Bill Foster (D) in the new 11th District that stretches from her home area in Hinsdale southeast to include Joliet, the latter region brand new to the seven-term congresswoman. The general election will be a major fight here, but the political numbers give Foster and the Ds a clear advantage. Obama scored 61.4 percent under the new district confines. Foster, who lost his 14th District in 2010, has his own weaknesses, so this general election begins as a toss-up with a tilt toward the Dems.
The new 12th CD, anchored in the Democratic stronghold of East St. Louis and moving south all the way to Kentucky, is very much in play for November. Without incumbent Rep. Jerry Costello (D), who is retiring, the Democrats must now rely on former St. Clair County School Superintendent Brad Harriman in a district where the President received 54.7 percent of the vote. This is the only Illinois Democratic seat where the Obama percentage lessened significantly from the previous draw. The Republicans nominated their former lieutenant governor (2010) candidate Jason Plummer. With a strong campaign, the GOP could conceivably steal this seat, thus off-setting some of their other likely Illinois losses.
Finally, freshman Rep. Bobby Schilling (R) must defend his new 17th CD against East Moline Alderwoman Cheri Bustos, who scored a 58 percent win Tuesday night against two Democratic candidates. The 17th was made more Democratic and now actually reaches into the city of Rockford from its traditional population anchor in the Quad Cities region. Obama posted a flat 60 percent here in 2008, meaning Schilling has tough sledding in 2012 with the President again leading the ticket. Still, this is a competitive race and with a strong campaign, Schilling has a chance to win a second term.