Ambitious Illinois Democrats interested in Congress are closely monitoring a trio of longtime members from Chicagoland.
Illinois Democrats had a productive cycle in 2012, when the party flipped four House seats. But party operatives caution that the next wave of movement likely won’t come until there’s some turnover in the Chicago delegation.
None of these Democrats have announced retirement plans yet. But any retirement in the 1st, 4th or 7th districts would prompt crowded primaries filled with the Democrats who already dominate local politics.
“There are ambitious, powerful politicians who have been around for a long time who have deep, deep Chicago relationships, and when the dominoes fall in any of these seats, they will be free-for-alls,” one Democratic consultant said. “The Chicago races are the ones to look at.”
Local operatives rattled off a number of candidates likely to run when Democratic Rep. Bobby L. Rush, who has represented the 1st District for 11 terms, decides to retire.
• State Sen. Kwame Raoul has served in the state Senate since 2004, when he was appointed to fill the vacancy that President Barack Obama left after he won his bid for the U.S. Senate. Operatives say Raoul’s state Senate district is “tailor-made for advancement” because it includes the downtown Chicago and Hyde Park areas, which are filled with wealthy and influential Democrats.
• Operatives describe first-term Chicago Alderman Will Burns, who helped run Obama’s state Senate races, as someone with close ties to the president’s political machine.
• Alderman Michelle Harris is an influential member of Chicago’s city council.
Local Democrats are also watching 11-term Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez in the 4th District. Democratic consultants speculate that if an immigration bill is passed this Congress, Gutierrez could decide to retire.
The subsequent primary to replace him would be crowded, likely pitting South Side Chicago politicians of Mexican descent and North Side politicians of Puerto Rican and South American descent against each another.
Potential candidates in the 4th District include:
• Former 1st Ward Alderman Manny Flores, who now serves as the director of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
• First-term state Rep. Silvana Tabares, who defeated a highly touted labor candidate last cycle.
• State Sen. Iris Martinez, who currently serves as chairwoman of the Latino Caucus in the state Senate.
• State Sen. Martin Sandoval.
Finally, local operatives say if Democratic Rep. Danny K. Davis ever retires from the 7th District, it would spark a battle royal between four Democratic hopefuls:
• Cook County Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarbrough. She has also served in the state House.
• Alderman Bob Fioretti.
• Alderman Brendan Reilly.
• State Sen. Don Harmon.
For Democrats in Chicago and elsewhere in the Prairie State, the next statewide opportunity might be several cycles away.
Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin has already announced he will seek re-election in 2014. And next year’s Democratic primary to challenge Gov. Pat Quinn is filling up with the addition of former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley to the race.
Instead, ambitious Democrats are eyeing Sen. Mark S. Kirk, R-Ill., who is up for re-election in 2016.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.