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.
Illinois Democrats, including Durbin, have been grooming freshman Rep. Tammy Duckworth to run for several cycles. Consultants say the same Democrats would probably want her to look at running statewide in 2016. Reps. Jan Schakowsky, Bill Foster and Mike Quigley could look at the race as well.
On the GOP statewide bench, two of the strongest contenders are gearing up for rematches in House races. Former Rep. Robert Dold, ousted in 2012 after one term, is challenging Democratic freshman Rep. Brad Schneider in the 10th District. Another one-term Republican ousted last year, Rep. Bobby Schilling, is leaning toward a rematch with Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos in the 17th District.
But for other up-and-coming Republicans in Illinois, consultants say their mobility hinges on Kirk in 2016. Kirk, who suffered a stroke at the start of his term, has said repeatedly that he is not retiring.
Republicans said GOP Reps. Adam Kinzinger and Aaron Schock would look at running for an open Senate seat if Kirk called it quits. That would create openings in their 16th and 18th districts, respectively. State Sen. Dan Duffy was also mentioned as a potential candidate for Senate if Kirk were to retire.
If Kinzinger runs statewide, consultants said state Rep. John Cabello would be a strong candidate for his House seat. Cabello serves as a police detective in addition to his legislative duties.
If Schock were to run for Senate, consultants said state Sen. Darin LaHood would likely run in the 18th District. LaHood is the son of former House Republican and former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
Meanwhile, Democrats say they are confident they’ll keep the seats they won in 2012 in the near future.
“We’ve had a lot of change with the maps, with redistricting and the waves of ’06, ’08 and even ’12 and so a lot has stabilized,” one Democratic consultant said. “What seems to be the bigger change will be the generational shift.”
Farm Team is a state-by-state look at the up-and-coming politicos who may eventually run for Congress. The column runs on Thursdays.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.