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Race Ratings: Illinois Democrats’ Map Makes GOP Sweat

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Rep. Joe Walsh’s (above) home was drawn out of Illinois’ new 8th district. Walsh has said he will run in the 14th district, setting up a GOP primary race with Rep. Randy Hultgren.

Former Rep. Bill Foster (D), who lost his seat in the GOP wave last year, announced he'll seek this seat too. He represented about a quarter of this district during his short tour in Congress.

Biggert is better known in the area, but it's still friendly territory for Democrats.

12th district
Open Seat: Jerry Costello (D) is retiring
Rating: Leans Democratic

Costello's departure creates an opportunity for Republicans in southwest Illinois. But it's just that — a chance in a marginally Democratic district. Nonetheless, it's one of the few bright spots for Republicans on the new map.

Here's the good news for the GOP: A few Republicans have already expressed interest in the seat, including 2010
Lt. Gov. nominee Jason Plummer, former Belleville Mayor Roger Cook and nurse Theresa Kormos. The National Republican Congressional Committee demonstrated a willingness to invest here by running advertisements blasting the 12-term Democrat earlier this cycle.

Now here's the bad news for Republicans: This is an expensive district with a solid Democratic bench. Candidates and committees will have to raise serious money to compete in the pricey St. Louis media market.

What's more, former state Rep. Jay Hoffman (D) has not ruled out switching races to run here instead of in the 13th district. Hoffmann spent millions of dollars in this media market over the course of his long career in the state Legislature.

13th district
Incumbent: Timothy Johnson (R)
6th term (64 percent)
Rating: Tossup

Johnson, one of Capitol Hill's quirkiest characters, will have his first tough race in a decade thanks to the Democratic redraw. He is often seen pacing through the halls of the Capitol on his cellphone, attempting to call every constituent.

He's going to have to get a new address book next year. Johnson's chosen district includes mostly foreign territory for the downstate Republican.

Democrats moved most of Johnson's current territory into the 15th district and switched around parts of Champaign so that Rep. John Shimkus (R) could run in the 15th instead.

Johnson immediately accepted his fate and rented an apartment in the middle of the new district. He didn't even sign on to the GOP lawsuit.

Democrats have not fielded a Congressional candidate in this territory for several cycles, so the bench here is relatively green to national politics. There will probably be a primary, too. Hoffman's decision to switch to the 13th likely will affect the rest of the field. Green County State's Attorney Matt Goetten also says he's interested.

14th district
Member-vs.-Member Race
Rating: Likely Republican

This primary could be one of the most sensational races of the cycle. The two Republican freshmen running here, Joe Walsh and Randy Hultgren, have antithetical personalities, and Walsh is notoriously unpredictable.

No one gave him a chance last November, but he defeated former Rep. Melissa Bean (D) by less than 300 votes. Since coming to Congress, Walsh has made a name for himself on cable news as a sharp critic of the president. His local headlines have been less flattering: The Chicago Sun-Times reported that court documents show Walsh could owe more than $100,000 in child support back payments.

Hultgren, who defeated Foster last year, keeps a much lower profile. A longtime state lawmaker, Hultgren defeated former Speaker Dennis Hastert's son to win the GOP nomination in 2010.

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