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Recent public polls show a competitive three-way primary. In a February poll from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, Madigan led Quinn, 32 percent to 23 percent; Daley scored 12 percent.
Once the Democratic primary field is complete, it’s possible the delegation might coalesce behind a candidate. Because every Illinois Democrat in Congress will share a ballot with the eventual nominee, their endorsements might prove a telling indicator for the primary.
“It is going to be the most fascinating dance to watch in the country,” said Kevin Lampe, a longtime Democratic consultant in Illinois. “It will be better than ‘Dancing With the Stars.’”
In 2008 and 2012, Illinois Democrats benefited from having their home-state president, Barack Obama, on the ballot. The party picked up House seats in both of those cycles.
But next year, the gubernatorial race will top the ticket and turnout will filter down to competitive House races. What’s more, Republicans are targeting the gubernatorial race as well as several competitive House districts occupied by Democrats.
Accordingly, the fate of several newly elected, vulnerable House Democrats — such as Bustos, Foster and freshman Rep. Brad Schneider — could depend on their gubernatorial nominee.
For some members, that’s all the more reason to stay out of the race.
“These guys, a lot of them have their own challenges to worry about between the 10th and the 12th and the 17th, among other districts,” Illinois Democratic pollster Jason McGrath said. “You’re looking at a lot of people who are trying to make sure that they’re in a good position to return to Congress themselves.”
Still, their silence is unique given how closely some of these members have worked with the candidates. In addition to Duckworth, Daley has previously contributed to the campaigns of Bustos and Quigley. In 2010, Davis and Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez backed Quinn’s gubernatorial bid.
Neither Quinn’s nor Daley’s campaign returned a request for comment on whether they are courting the endorsements of members of the delegation.
“I think you’re going to see, potentially more so than any other race in any other election cycle, more of the Illinois elected officials staying on the sidelines,” Liston said.