Feb. 9, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER
Roll Call




Incumbent: Dick Durbin (D)
2nd term (60 percent)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

Durbin, who’s said to be eyeing Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) job whenever it becomes vacant, is expected to coast to a third term in his Election Day battle with physician Steve Sauerberg (R), whose self-funded candidacy failed to launch in the heavily Democratic state.

Land of Lincoln voters are expected to turn out in droves for home-state presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D), likely adding to Durbin’s vote cushion, which was 22 points in his 2002 matchup with state Rep. Jim Durkin (R).


6th district
Incumbent: Peter Roskam (R)
1st term (51 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

The district was the site of the marquee 2006 race involving Roskam and Iraq War veteran Tammy Duckworth (D), but talk of Democrats flipping the seat has quieted dramatically in recent months, as Roskam has avoided typical freshman gaffes — and a credible Democratic challenger.

Jill Morgenthaler, also an Iraq War veteran, was recruited and groomed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, but she has struggled to raise money or make herself known to voters in the suburban Chicagoland district. As of July 1, she had just $231,000 in cash, compared with Roskam’s impressive $1.2 million cash-on-hand total.

Still, Morgenthaler’s lackluster performance as a candidate this cycle could be offset by a bump in Democratic turnout for presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D) in a district where Roskam won by fewer than 5,000 votes just two years ago.

8th district
Incumbent: Melissa Bean (D)
2nd term (51 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Like her colleague Rep. Peter Roskam (R) in the nearby 6th district, Bean plans to ride to an easy win on political elbow grease and a lot of luck Nov. 4 in her theoretically competitive suburban Chicago district.

Once touted as a top National Republican Congressional Committee recruit, Bean’s challenger, businessman Steve Greenberg, flamed out early on in the cycle, quickly becoming a poster boy for GOP recruiting woes in 2008. The former professional hockey player’s alleged ability to self-finance originally enticed many Republicans, but his cash never materialized — nor has his candidacy.

But Bean’s district remains competitive for the independent-minded lawmaker, who has twice struggled to get more than 50 percent from voters who twice picked President Bush.

10th district
Incumbent: Mark Kirk (R)
4th term (53 percent)
Outlook: Tossup

Even Republicans are worried about Kirk, whose wealthy North Shore Chicago electorate is divided evenly among Democrats, Republicans and independents — a worrisome split, GOPers say, given this year’s political climate.

But Kirk saw the writing on the wall early in the cycle, setting off on a fundraising tear in anticipation of a tough rematch with marketing consultant Dan Seals (D), who did better than expected in 2006. Anticipating no help from the National Republican Congressional Committee, Kirk through July 1 had raised a jaw-dropping $3.5 million for the cycle and had $2.8 million-plus in cash on hand.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which ignored him the previous cycle, began courting Seals almost immediately after Election Day 2006. And since then the political novice, too, has posted impressive fundraising totals, raising $2.1 million and banking $1.2 million through June 30.

Democrats are confident of Seals’ chances, but whether the DCCC is confident enough in Seals to infuse substantial cash into Chicago’s expensive media market — where the committee may have more pressing issues — remains to be seen. In a district that votes for Democrats in White House elections, Kirk is hoping for as many ticket-splitters as possible.

11th district
Open seat: Jerry Weller (R) is retiring
Outlook: Tossup

There will be blood. That’s what Democrats and Republicans alike are predicting in the final weeks of the open-seat matchup pitting Chicago concrete baron Martin Ozinga (R) against state Senate Majority Leader Debbie Halvorson (D).

The biggest factor going into the final weeks may be whether Ozinga decides to self-finance his campaign, which he is capable of but so far has been reluctant to do. But with the Supreme Court striking down the “Millionaires’ Amendment” three months ago, Ozinga could quickly match Halvorson on the cash front and perhaps offset a presumptive heavy financial commitment by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which has already spent more than $500,000 on the race.

Both candidates have plenty of appetizing political fodder for their opponents. Ozinga owns numerous Chicago-area business interests and has worked the Windy City’s notoriously shadowy contracting system for years, handing out campaign cash to both parties in what’s locally termed “pay to play.”

But Halvorson’s perceived proximity to tarnished Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), himself a former House Member, continues to provide the Land of Lincoln GOP with no shortage of political hay. Blagojevich’s administration continues to face corruption allegations, pushing his popularity into the low double digits and dominating media coverage in Illinois. And for the state Senate leader’s campaign, every time scandal in Democratic-dominated Springfield leads the news, her campaign suffers, too.

14th district
Incumbent: Bill Foster (D)
1st term (53 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Foster, a demure physicist, vaulted from political obscurity earlier this year when he won a special election to replace retiring Speaker Dennis Hastert (R).

Considered sturdy GOP territory for decades, the seat is now comfortably in Democratic hands, a byproduct primarily of Hastert and other prominent Republicans backing of self-funder Jim Oberweis (R), a well-known local dairy owner whose deep pockets are attractive to political leaders but whose brash style has proved to be a turnoff to voters.

Since losing his fourth high- profile try for elected office in the special election in February — races in which he has spent millions of dollars of his own money — Oberweis has put his campaign on simmer and is showing few signs that he’ll devote significant additional resources, or shoe leather, to the race.

18th district
Open seat: Ray LaHood (R) is retiring
Outlook: Likely Republican

A rare GOP recruiting bright spot this cycle, 27-year-old state Rep. Aaron Schock is expected to replace LaHood, who’s calling it quits after 14 years in Congress. In the general election, Schock is facing Colleen Callahan, a local broadcaster drafted by Democrats to replace once-promising recruit Dick Versace, a former professional basketball coach who abruptly ended his campaign earlier this year.

Since jumping into the race in early March, Callahan has struggled to compete with Schock on the fundraising front. Through June 30, Callahan raised $277,000 while Schock brought in more than $1.5 million.



2nd district
Incumbent: Joe Donnelly (D)
1st term (54 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Though once a target early on in the cycle for Republicans, Donnelly appears to be coasting to re-election.

His opponent, businessman Luke Puckett (R), has a campaign bank account in the hole. A quirky primary against a Nazi sympathizer took the spotlight from Puckett, who has already put $157,000 of his own funds into the race.

Donnelly won’t have to work hard to keep his seat for another two years.

3rd district
Incumbent: Mark Souder (R)
7th term (54 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

Democrats claim Souder, who had a closer-than-expected race in 2006 against a Fort Wayne city councilman, can lose his northeast Indiana seat this year. But it still looks like a long shot.

Attorney Mike Montagano is the Democratic nominee this time. Initially boosted by promising fundraising numbers, Montagano continues to trail Souder significantly in the polls.

Still, Democrats argue that Montagano has a chance if they do well in the state at the presidential level and if former Rep. Jill Long Thompson (D) performs well in her old district in her gubernatorial bid. Montagano also ended July with more money in the bank than Souder: $352,000 compared with $323,000.

The Congressman, however, is not taking his challenge lightly, and though Democrats continue to target him, it’s likely this district is not winnable for the party any more than it was during Long Thompson’s days in office.

8th district
Incumbent: Brad Ellsworth (D)
1st term (61 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Once considered a competitive district, it appears Ellsworth is getting a free pass to re-election. Republicans nominated university lobbyist Greg Goode to challenge the former sheriff, but his fundraising has been disappointing, to the say the least. At the end of July, he had about $50,000 in the bank.

Ellsworth continues to be popular in the district that voted for President Bush with 62 percent in 2004. His campaign likely won’t make a lot of noise in the coming month as he’s expected to easily win re-election.

9th district
Incumbent: Baron Hill (D)
1st term (50 percent; previously served three terms)
Outlook: Leans Democratic

Most movie-goers would like to forget they ever saw “Rocky IV.” And now that Hill and former Rep. Mike Sodrel (R) are on their fourth round of running against each other, the rematch is reminiscent of the fourth episode in the famous boxing series: unnecessarily bloody with a stale plotline.

Sodrel does not appear to be getting the traction he received in previous cycles. If he wins, it’s only because he’s carried to victory on the presidential ticket’s coattails. President Bush won the district with 59 percent in 2004 — the only time Sodrel ever won the seat.

The last few weeks of this never- ending Congressional race will likely continue to be very negative, with Hill and Sodrel exchanging barbs about each others’ time in Congress. In the end, however, Hill will likely be crowned the winner.



Incumbent: Carl Levin (D)
5th term (61 percent)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

With a little-known state Rep. Jack Hoogendyk (R) as an opponent, Levin has an easy re-election. Not only is he still popular in the state, Michigan has trended increasingly blue in recent cycles. Levin should have nothing to worry about on Nov. 4.


7th district
Incumbent: Tim Walberg (R)
1st term (50 percent)
Outlook: Tossup

Democrats nominated state Sen. Mark Schauer to take on Walberg, whom they have always viewed as a weak candidate.

If it’s a question of resources, Democrats definitely have the upper hand in the district. Schauer is a money-raising machine from his time in the state Senate. What’s more, Walberg does not make a secret of the fact that he does not like to fundraise.

But the district might just vote too Republican for Democrats to pick up the seat, especially in a presidential cycle. Democrats probably would not have a good shot at this seat if a Republican other than Walberg were on the ballot. Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) decision to pull out of Michigan does not help the incumbent.

9th district
Incumbent: Joe Knollenberg (R)
8th term (52 percent)
Outlook: Tossup

Knollenberg got a scare in the previous cycle when a poorly funded Democratic opponent kept him to 52 percent of the vote. This cycle, he appears to be doing everything he can to avoid a surprise on Nov. 4.

Democrats have recruited former state Lottery Commissioner Gary Peters to challenge Knollenberg. A solid candidate with good fundraising skills, Peters will give Knollenberg his best challenge in a few cycles. If the district has a good presidential turnout for Democrats, it may be more than Peters needs to push him over the finish line. In 2004, President Bush won the district by only 6,000 votes.

Yet while this district may be more welcoming to Democrats on paper than the 7th, Knollenberg, unlike Walberg, is a seasoned campaigner who will not lose his seat without a fight. Peters, on the other hand, will likely attempt to tie Knollenberg to the Bush administration and Washington, D.C., Republicans in hopes of stealing his seat.



Incumbent: Norm Coleman (R)
1st term (50 percent)
Outlook: Tossup

In what could be the most negative race of the cycle — especially for a state that bills itself as Minnesota nice — Coleman has found himself in a race against comedian Al Franken (D). Republicans and even some Democrats had written Franken off more than a few times over the past two years, but he appears to have rebounded to competitive status every time.

The reality for Minnesota Republicans is that the state has trended fairly Democratic in recent cycles and sometimes it only takes a half-decent Democrat to defeat a Republican incumbent. And with presidential polls in the state giving Democrats the edge, Franken could ride the big, blue wave to victory in November.

Minnesota voters, however, are a discerning bunch who not only boast some of the highest turnout in the country, but also pay close attention to their candidates. That’s both good and bad for Franken, who spent much of this year defending $70,000 in incorrectly paid income taxes and some of his risqué writings from his comedy career.

The state GOP, Coleman and national Republicans won’t be afraid to leave a single Franken script unturned in this campaign. Expect an increasingly negative assault from GOP operatives as they attempt to keep Franken trailing Coleman outside the margin of error in the polls. Democrats, in turn, will try their best to put Coleman and President Bush in the same corner.

But by far the biggest wildcard in this race is former Sen. Dean Barkley (I), who also served as a top aide to Gov. Jesse Ventura (I). Although his anti-war stance will likely steal valuable votes away from Franken, it’s possible he might pull a few disaffected independent voters and Republicans away from Coleman. Either way, Barkley has been polling in the teens in recent weeks, which means he will likely play spoiler for someone on Election Day. Franken may not be able to get to 50 percent, but with Barkley in the race he may not need to in order to win.


1st district
Incumbent: Tim Walz (D)
1st term (53 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Walz appears to be on track to win re-election, but Republicans keep touting physician Brian Davis as a promising candidate. Davis, backed by the state party, defeated a state Senator in the GOP primary 2-1. Davis also has been willing to throw some of his own funds in the race, and Republicans certainly hope he’ll keep doing so through November.

Walz, however, appears to have a solid hold on the district as a freshman. Despite only one term in office, he’s regularly receiving more than 50 percent of the vote in public polls on the race.

3rd district
Open seat: Jim Ramstad (R) is retiring
Outlook: Tossup

Ramstad’s retirement left a golden opportunity open for Democrats to make a pickup in the district west of the Twin Cities. The moderate Ramstad has easily held onto the affluent, suburban seat for more than a decade, but even he acknowledges the district has trended Democratic in recent years.

One of Ramstad’s former aides, state Rep. Erik Paulsen (R), is running to replace the nine-term Member. He acknowledges he is more conservative than Ramstad, but the Congressman fully backs Paulsen and is chairman of his campaign.

Democrats have nominated Iraq War veteran Ashwin Madia, a former Republican and attorney, who pulled an upset in the party’s caucus endorsement process over a state Senator. While Madia will be boosted by his party’s national dollars, Paulsen is an effective fundraiser in his own right.

This race will likely be a bellwether for how much the district has changed in recent cycles. Expect Madia to try to present himself in a similar light as Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.): the candidate of change. Paulsen, on the other hand, will attempt to present his legislative experience as a good thing for Congress.

6th district
Incumbent: Michele Bachmann (R)
1st term (50 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

Give ’em El ... or not. Once thought to be the only kind of Democrat who could win the conservative district far north of the Twin Cities, former state Transportation Commissioner El Tinklenberg does not appear to be raising money or getting enough traction to give Bachmann a good run. Most recently, Tinklenberg was not included in the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “Red to Blue” list of the top 54 promising challenger or open-seat candidates.

Bachmann, on the other hand, has done a good job staying out of the spotlight in the second half of her first term in Congress. After a first year marked with gaffes, Bachmann has for the most part stayed out of the headlines in 2008, and she made a prime-time speech at the Republican National Convention that was generally well-received.

There’s definitely an opportunity in this district for Democrats running against Bachmann, who still has relatively low approval ratings. But it appears Tinklenberg might not be the man to do it. Democrats might have missed their opportunity to steal this seat in 2006.



1st district
Incumbent: Steve Chabot (R)
7th term (52 percent)
Outlook: Tossup

Chabot has withstood more than a few tough challenges over the years in his conservative but urban district. Though state Rep. Steve Driehaus presents a different kind of challenge than the Democrats who came before him, it’s possible Chabot has found a winning formula for keeping his seat.

An aggressive campaigner, Chabot has already gone negative on Driehaus and will likely continue to do so over the next few weeks. Driehaus and national Democrats will try to tie Chabot closely to President Bush. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has targeted the race and already invested funds in the district.

The key for Democrats will be turning out the black vote in Cincinnati, which could be buoyed by the presence of Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) at the top of the ticket. If Driehaus and Democrats continue to nationalize the race, he’ll have a good chance of defeating Chabot in a presidential election year.

2nd district
Incumbent: Jean Schmidt (R)
2nd term (50 percent)
Outlook: Leans Republican

Schmidt might not be the best political candidate, but she has improved significantly since she came to Congress. The verbal gaffes that marked her first two years in Congress have become less frequent. She is also running a more aggressive campaign.

Luckily for Republicans, physician Victoria Wulsin (D) has not improved on her third attempt for the seat. Her best chance was likely in 2006, when Democrats swept the state. This time around, Schmidt will probably be boosted by presidential turnout as well in the generally conservative suburban Cincinnati district.

Even though Wulsin is on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “Red to Blue” list, the committee is unlikely to invest as much in this race as some other contests in the Buckeye State.

Expect to see an increasingly negative race, with both candidates attempting to tie each other to their respective national parties. But beyond the negative noise, it’s looking increasingly likely that Schmidt will win her re-election bid.

7th district
Open seat: David Hobson (R) is retiring
Outlook: Likely Republican

This was once thought to be a safe GOP seat, but the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised eyebrows when it added attorney Sharen Neuhardt to its “Red to Blue” list of promising candidates. Neuhardt is in an uphill battle against state Sen. Steve Austria (R), who has very close ties to Hobson and is widely see an his protégé.

Neuhardt will likely make an issue of Austria’s long voting record in the state Capitol. Austria, on the other hand, might try to paint Neuhardt as a liberal lawyer.

If Neuhardt can raise the money, she can probably wage a good campaign for the seat. But there’s no doubt that Austria has the upper hand in this race.

11th district
Open seat: Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D) died on Aug. 20
Outlook: Safe Democratic

Local Democrats nominated a Jones protégé to take her place on the November ballot: Warrensville Heights Mayor Marcia Fudge (D). Cleveland-area party bosses, African-American leaders and suburban mayors chose Fudge in what some local observers described as a complete consensus vote.

The district is safe for Democrats, and Fudge will likely follow in her mentor’s footsteps to the next Congress.

15th district
Open seat: Deborah Pryce (R) is retiring
Outlook: Tossup

For a second cycle in a row, Columbus is battleground zero for targeted Congressional races. Last cycle, Franklin County Commissioner Mary Jo Kilroy (D) lost to Pryce by about 1,000 votes. She’s back again for a second run at the seat.

And just when it looked like Republicans would not have a good candidate to put up against Kilroy this cycle, state Sen. Steve Stivers (R) stepped up to the plate. Described as a “rock star” by at least some Republican House Members, Stivers is a strong candidate with many of Pryce’s more moderate tendencies.

Kilroy, on the other hand, still carries negative baggage from her first run at the seat. Watch for Democrats to try to bring up Stivers’ negatives this cycle with lots of advertisements from the national party, reminding voters that he has worked as a lobbyist for the banking industry.

Presidential turnout will play a huge role in this district. If Democrats win at the top of the ticket in this battleground state, it could boost Kilroy to victory. Otherwise, another “rock star” might be on his way to Congress.

16th district
Open seat: Ralph Regula (R) is retiring
Outlook: Tossup

Democrats are salivating over their pickup opportunity in one of the most competitive districts in the state. The national party recruited state Sen. John Boccieri, who is also a military reservist — all the way from a neighboring Congressional district. He faces state Sen. Kirk Schuring, whom Republicans quickly anointed as the obvious heir to Regula.

Democrats are high on Boccieri and have already spent heavily on him in the district. Republicans likely won’t have the ability to spend much, but Schuring has solid fundraising of his own. A lot of money is about to be spent in this district.

Expect Democrats to focus their turnout in the eastern part of the district near Canton. Republicans will hope their rural base in the western part of the district will come to the polls.



8th district
Incumbent: Steve Kagen (D)
1st term (51 percent)
Outlook: Tossup

For the first part of this cycle, Kagen had a big Republican target on his back. Kagen spent millions of dollars of his own money to get elected in the conservative district two years ago.

This year, Kagen is in a rematch with former state Speaker John Gard. Republicans have advertised him as one of their best candidates for two cycles in a row. Gard continues to have fundraising totals on par with Kagen, and public polls show this race in a statistical tie.

Yet in the end, this race will likely be decided by presidential contest turnout — more so than almost any other competitive district in the country. President Bush won the district 55 percent to 44 percent in 2004. Because of numbers like those, Gard could have a better shot at the seat this year than in 2006. But Kagen has the advantage of incumbency and could hold onto his seat, even if Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) does not win the district.

comments powered by Disqus




Want Roll Call on your doorstep?