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Illinois Democrats Target GOP Freshmen With New Map

File Photo
Illinois' new map puts freshman Republican Reps. Joe Walsh (above) and Randy Hultgren in the new 14th district.

Illinois Democrats released an aggressive new Congressional map Friday, appearing to have made every effort possible to not only win back the four seats they lost in November but also create additional potential gains for the party.

Illinois is considered to be a major redistricting prize for Democrats, who are shut out of the mapmaking process in many key states that are either gaining or losing seats. But Democrats, who control the state Legislature, drew up the new map for Illinois — which is losing one House seat in 2012 — and the result is new Congressional boundaries that either eliminate or drastically alter districts represented by current GOP Members.

The state Legislature is reportedly expected to vote on the new map this weekend, just a couple of days before the Tuesday deadline to finish the map before the legislative session. However, national Democrats warn that there also might be additional tweaks to the map before it comes up for a vote.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the major changes in the new map:

The non-competitive 1st district, currently held by Rep. Bobby Rush (D), did not change greatly. It's still a heavily Democratic district.

But the 2nd district, held by Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D), changed substantially and now stretches south to include parts of Will and Kankakee counties — the latter of which is the home of freshman Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R).

If both Jackson and Kinzinger opt to run for re-election in the 2nd, the two would set up an incumbent matchup in a Democratic district, so the Republican might be better off moving and running in a more Republican district. Kinzinger’s closest option is the new 16th district, which stretches from Rep. Don Manzullo’s (R) base in Rockford to the state’s eastern border.

The partisan nature of the 3rd district in southeastern suburban Chicago did not change greatly under the new map. The 3rd is held by four-term Rep. Dan Lipinski (D), and his re-election prospects might have even improved as a result of some creative line-drawing.

As state Speaker Michael Madigan’s (D) closest ally in the delegation, Lipinski likely had a lot of say in what his new district would look like — and it shows. Wealthy businessman John Atkinson had already announced he would challenge Lipinski in the Democratic primary in 2012, but his current residence of Burr Ridge has conveniently been moved into the new 11th district where no incumbent Member of Congress currently resides.

The central urban Chicago districts currently represented by Democratic Reps. Danny Davis, Luis Gutierrez and Mike Quigley have been stretched out west into the suburbs. Quigley’s district in particular has increased greatly in geographical size. It now stretches west to include O’Hare airport and all the way south to the Hinsdale border.

The new map also puts areas represented by Reps. Judy Biggert and Peter Roskam into the same suburban Chicago 6th district, setting up what could be a second face-off for these two Republicans. Biggert defeated Roskam in the primary for an open seat in 1998, and Roskam won his own seat in 2006.

But Biggert’s Hinsdale residence is right on the border between the new 5th and 6th districts, so she could choose to run against Quigley instead of her GOP colleague — or she could move slightly south and run in the new 11th district. It’s also worth noting that the seven-term Congresswoman has also been rumored to be considering retirement.

Freshman Rep. Robert Dold’s (R) home of Kenilworth has been moved into Rep. Jan Schakowsky’s (D) heavily Democratic lakeshore district north of Chicago. This is now one of the most Democratic districts in the state, and Dold will have a tough time running for re-election there.

Dold could move instead into the new 10th district, where no current Member resides. In what can only be described as great timing, Democrat Brad Schneider, a Deerfield businessman, announced his bid earlier this week for that 10th district seat.

Two other freshman Republicans, Reps. Randy Hultgren and Joe Walsh, have been moved into the new 14th district. This new district includes more of Hultgren’s current territory, which means Walsh will face an uphill battle in the primary against his colleague or decide to move to run in the newly drawn, more suburban 8th district.

However, at least two Democrats have indicated their interest in the newly drawn 8th district. Former Illinois Deputy Treasurer Raja Krishnamoorthi has already announced his candidacy, and Department of Veterans Affairs official Tammy Duckworth has reportedly also expressed interested. Duckworth lost her first bid for the House in 2006, when Roskam defeated her in a race that garnered national headlines in part because of the Democrat’s profile as a wounded veteran.

Meanwhile, the Congressional boundaries in downstate Illinois were also changed, but they are not nearly as detrimental to Republicans in the Chicago suburbs.

Republican Reps. Bobby Schilling and Aaron Schock were moved into the 17th district, which includes the northwestern corner of the state. Schilling, a freshman, is from Rock Island, which is on the state’s border with Iowa and smack center in the middle of the district. Schock hails from Peoria, which would be in the southeastern corner of the new 17th district — an easy move for the two-term Congressman if he’d like a clear shot at the new heavily Republican 18th district. That district stretches from the western part of the state all the way to include McLean County in the central part of the state.

The redrawn 13th district will likely be a new home for Rep. John Shimkus (R). However, Democrats crafted the new region to include more competitive territory. As a result, Shimkus could have a more serious challenge in 2012 than he’s had in previous cycles.

Rep. Jerry Costello (D), the dean of the delegation and point man for redistricting, did not see too much change is his 12th district in southwestern Illinois, which still includes the Democratic-heavy East St. Louis. However, if Costello retires sometime in the next decade, this could potentially be a competitive seat.

Similarly, Rep. Timothy Johnson’s (R) district has shifted south and now includes a much larger geographical area. However, its composition as a heavily Republican district did not change.

In other redistricting news, the Nebraska Legislature passed a redistricting map that Gov. Dave Heineman (R) signed into law Thursday. The new map makes minor tweaks to the state’s Congressional districts, but it does make the Omaha-based 2nd district less competitive by moving into it some heavily suburban GOP counties.

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