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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

It's well-known that Lipinski's father also his predecessor is close with state Speaker Michael Madigan. That paid off big time for Lipinski in the redraw.

Earlier this year, wealthy health care executive John Atkinson (D) announced that he would challenge Lipinski because the Congressman voted against the health care overhaul bill.

But Madigan conveniently drew Atkinson's home into a nearby district instead, giving Lipinski a clear path to re-election. Atkinson has since dropped his bid for Congress altogether.

Lipinski will also have to watch the quickly growing Hispanic community that makes up almost 25 percent of the voting-age population of his district. There are several local Latino lawmakers who could mount primary challenges in future cycles.

4th district
Incumbent: Luis Gutierrez (D)
10th term (77 percent)
Rating: Safe Democratic

Gutierrez will almost certainly win re-election. So it's ironic his district proved to be one of the most controversial in the redraw.

Insiders deemed the district "the earmuffs" for its awkward "C" shape around parts of metropolitan Chicago. But the shape of the district didn't change much in the redraw: It's the burgeoning Latino population that's attracted unfavorable attention.

Almost 66 percent of the voting-age population in the redrawn 4th is Hispanic. But Republicans say there are enough Hispanics in the greater Chicago area to warrant a second district. That's the Illinois GOP delegation's primary legal complaint.

It's likely the GOP lawsuit will fail. But Jackson didn't help the Democrats' defense by publicly raising concerns about a second Latino district.

Either way, Gutierrez shouldn't have a problem holding on to his seat.

5th district
Incumbent: Mike Quigley (D)
1st full term (71 percent)
Rating: Safe Democratic

The current 5th district stretches horizontally from Lake Michigan to the western Chicago suburbs. It includes a diverse mix of affluent lakeshore residents, Wrigley Field, the city's largest gay community and predominantly Polish suburban sprawl.

Believe it or not, Democrats redrew this district to make it even more eclectic extending it to the border of Lipinski's South Side Chicago seat, adding most of O'Hare International Airport and some eastern suburbs in DuPage County and packing in some Republicans.

Quigley won this seat in a special election after Rahm Emanuel became White House chief of staff.

Democrats drew GOP Rep. Judy Biggert's Hinsdale home into the southwestern end of this district. But Republicans say there's no way she will run for re-election in this mostly urban, heavily Democratic district.

6th district
Incumbent: Peter Roskam (R)
3rd term (64 percent)
Rating: Likely Republican

Roskam is one of the few Illinois Republicans who got lucky with the Democrats' new map he's the only Member living in this GOP-leaning district west of Chicago.

On the down side for Roskam, he has plenty of new territory. Only 25 percent of his current district is in the redrawn 6th. But it's mostly solid GOP territory. And Roskam is simply a terrific candidate. He's quickly ascended the ranks of House leadership, boasts $1.7 million in the bank and is a strong campaigner. He won't break a sweat winning a fourth term.

7th district
Incumbent: Danny Davis (D)
8th term (82 percent)
Rating: Safe Democratic

The changes to this district were minimal because it's still based in downtown Chicago. The 7th is nestled in between the "earmuffs" of Gutierrez's predominantly Hispanic district.

Davis' district also includes a black voting-age population of slightly more than 50 percent.

Davis has toyed with leaving Congress recently, including floating bids for Cook County Board and Chicago mayor last year. But until he leaves, he can easily hold on to this seat.

8th district
Open Seat
Rating: Likely Democratic

This is a prime example of Democrats' redistricting efforts.

Democrats moved this district from the Wisconsin border to near Chicago's northwest suburbs. They made it more Democratic in the process by folding in the city of Elgin, which has a growing Hispanic population. They also redrew freshman Rep. Joe Walsh's (R) home out of the district.

The 8th is becoming a popular destination for ambitious Democrats. Two fairly well-known candidates, former Illinois Deputy Treasurer Raja Krishnamoorthi and Iraq War veteran Tammy Duckworth, are running.

Duckworth has the initial upper hand in the Democratic primary. She's well-known in the Chicago media market from her high-profile, close loss against Roskam in 2006. But both Democrats are running aggressive and smart campaigns.

There are some Republicans looking at this seat: state Rep. David Harris, conservative activist Rich Evans, businessman Andrew Palomo and Long Grove Village Clerk Maria Rodriguez. Democrats will likely hold on to this seat, even after a nasty primary.

9th district
Incumbent: Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D)
7th term (66 percent)
Rating: Safe Democratic

This North Shore Chicago district took one for the Democratic team in the redraw by annexing some more competitive parts of Chicagoland's northwest suburbs, such as Wheeling. As a consolation prize, this district also picked up some of the wealthiest communities in the country, such as Winnetka. Schakowsky must be happy about having that fertile fundraising ground under her purview next cycle.

Democrats moved freshman Rep. Robert Dold (R) into this district, too. He has yet to make a formal announcement but Republicans expect Dold will seek re-election in the 10th district instead.

10th district
Incumbent: Robert Dold (R)
1st term (51 percent)
Rating: Leans Democratic

Dold holds the dubious distinction of representing the most Democratic district in the country held by a GOP Member. He won the seat by a mere 4,500 votes in the most Republican-friendly year in decades.

Democrats did their best to make re-election difficult for Dold. They drew his home base, the affluent village of Winnetka, into the 9th district.

They moved more Democrats into the area by shifting it north to the Wisconsin state line and west to the McHenry County border.

Two Democrats have announced bids here so far: former MoveOn.org organizer Ilya Sheyman and businessman Brad Schneider. Sheyman has the backing of Howard Dean, but Schneider is the local party favorite.

Dold is also more conservative than his predecessor, now-Sen. Mark Kirk (R), on some social issues. That could give many voters pause and, combined with the new territory, could be enough to knock him out of office after a single term.

11th district
Incumbent: Judy Biggert (R)
7th term (64 percent)
Rating: Leans Democratic

All signs point to Biggert running again in this district. Even though she's started circulating petitions to run here, she has not confirmed where she'll seek re-election.

There's a reason Biggert is leading the charge on the GOP lawsuit. Democrats carved up her current, Naperville-based district with a vengeance.

Biggert's home is in the 5th, but almost 50 percent of her Congressional district is in the new 11th.

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.

Hultgren has a slight upper hand here because he's represented about 40 percent of the district. Walsh has only represented about 30 percent.

But Walsh has been underestimated before. There's no telling what kind of campaign he'll run now that he's a Member with resources.

15th district
Incumbent: John Shimkus (R)
8th term (71 percent)
Rating: Safe Republican

Shimkus is one of the luckiest Republicans in the delegation and will seek re-election in a safer Republican district than his current one. He has a great deal of new territory, but it's all rich with Republican voters.

16th district
Member-vs.-Member Race
Rating: Likely Republican

This district will likely feature a brutal GOP primary that highlights the generational divide between Illinois Republicans.

Ten-term Rep. Don Manzullo, 67, and freshman Rep. Adam Kinzinger, 33, are expected to face off. Although neither Republican has made a formal announcement, Manzullo lives in this district and Kinzinger already started circulating petitions to run here.

Earlier this year, Republicans believed that Manzullo might retire. But sources say Manzullo turned a corner late this summer and is gearing up for another campaign.

Kinzinger lives in the redrawn 2nd, but his current district was split into three different House districts. The majority of his current territory now lies in the 16th district.

Democrats removed populous Rockford in the redraw, and as a result, the seat will most likely stay in GOP hands.

Democrats could make this seat competitive if the primary gets ugly, but without a candidate and with so many other competitive contests in the state, Democrats would be wise to put their money elsewhere.

17th district
Incumbent: Bobby Schilling (R)
1st term (53 percent)
Rating: Leans Democratic

Schilling's bid for a second term is going to be much harder than his first attempt.

The current 17th earned the nickname "Rabbit on Skateboard" for its odd and obviously gerrymandered shape. The lines around the redrawn 17th are much cleaner, effectively moving the district into the northwest corner of the state. It also is more favorable to Democrats, and candidates are lining up to run against Schilling. State Sen. Dave Koehler, Freeport Mayor George Gaulrapp and East Moline Alderman Cheri Bustos are already in the crowded Democratic primary. Whoever wins the nomination will have an advantage over Schilling in the general election.

18th district
Incumbent: Aaron Schock (R)
2nd term (69 percent)
Rating: Safe Republican

Democrats went relatively easy on Schock by packing Republicans into this redrawn district.

Why did Democrats spare an up-and-comer like Schock? Some Republicans speculate it's because they want Schock to stay in the House instead of challenging Sen. Dick Durbin (D) in 2014. But given the make-up of this new district, almost any Republican could hold on to this seat until the next redraw.

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