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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.

Illinois Democrats drew one of the most aggressive new Congressional maps so far this cycle.

The state will lose one House seat next year, and Democrats targeted five GOP House Members for defeat in their redraw. Their effort not only will force at least two pairs of Republican Members to face off in primaries but also creates Democratic opportunities in open seats.

Republicans vehemently protested the map and have sued in hopes it might be overturned. They argue there are enough Hispanic voters in Rep. Luis Gutierrez's (D) district and around Chicago to warrant a second Hispanic-majority district.

At first, Republicans withheld re-election announcements about their future districts during the lawsuit. But one by one, Illinois GOP Members are making it clear where they'll seek another term.

The result is at least two Member-vs.-Member races in northeast Illinois and possibly a couple of the most exciting primary contests in the country. Five GOP-held seats are more competitive for Democrats than they were last cycle, giving national Democrats a boost as they attempt to win back the 25 seats they need to reclaim the House majority.

1st district
Incumbent: Bobby Rush (D)
10th term (80 percent)
Rating: Safe Democratic

Rush's redrawn district won't change his electoral fortunes at all: He can have this seat until he doesn't want it anymore.

2nd district
Incumbent: Jesse Jackson Jr.
8th full term (81 percent)
Rating: Safe Democratic

Sources say Jackson was not completely satisfied with the changes to his South Side Chicago district, even though he's still in a heavily Democratic seat. Much like the 1st district, Chicago's population decline forced the 2nd district to move southwest, picking up parts of Kankakee and Will counties.

But unlike Rush, Jackson could have a rough ride to re-election this cycle. He invited trouble recently by publicly criticizing the new map, raising concerns that it might not adhere to the Voting Rights Act. The Chicago press has ripped Jackson to shreds this year, and now at least two Democrats could challenge him.

Alderman Anthony Beale, a rising star in city politics, would be a formidable challenger. Former Rep. Debbie Halvorson is poised to enter the race today.

It's unlikely that Halvorson, Jackson's political nemesis, could take him down alone. But if Beale and Jackson split the majority black vote in this district, Halvorson has an opening.

Jackson's campaign account had just $306,000 in the bank at the end of June; Halvorson's had $222,000.

Democrats moved freshman Rep. Adam Kinzinger's (R) home into this district, too. But Republicans say there's no chance he'll run here because of the district's heavily Democratic slant.

3rd district
Incumbent: Dan Lipinski (D)
4th term (70 percent)
Rating: Likely Democratic

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