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Illinois - 18th District

Incumbent -- Aaron Schock (R) ; Running for re-election

Safe Republican
Race Ratings Key
 

Updated Feb. 3, 2010

Schock's 2008 win, at the age of 27, made him the current youngest member of Congress. His precocious political career drew him attention even before he won the 2008 open-seat race to succeed veteran Republican Rep. Ray LaHood (who later crossed party lines and now serves as secretary of Transportation in President Obama's Democratic administration). Schock first won a seat on the Peoria school board at age 19 and was elected to the Illinois House at 23.

It initially appeared that Schock would not coast to a win in 2008, as the Democrats touted their recruitment of Dick Versace, a former basketball coach at Peoria's Bradley University who also coached in the NBA. But Versace dropped out, citing family issues, and the Democrats' replacement candidate never got her campaign off the ground. Schock cruised to a 21 percentage-point victory margin even as Obama, a senator from Illinois when he ran for president in 2008, was cutting the usual hefty GOP edge in the 18th to 2 points.

Schock, who has been noticed for his youth and well-toned physique since he arrived in Washington, looks like a solid favorite to win re-election.

He has opposition from environmental activist Deirdre Hirner, who won a low-turnout Feb. 2 primary by 54 percent to 46 percent over Carl Ray, an executive at the Caterpillar heavy equipment company that is based in the district. But her underdog status is evident in the campaign finance reports. While Schock reported a bit more than $1 million in receipts and $355,000 in cash on hand as of Jan. 13, Hirner's comparable figures were $41,000 and $34,000.

 

District Information

District Profile from Politics in America

The 18th takes in all or part of 20 counties in central and western Illinois, with Peoria County making up nearly 30 percent of the population. In the south, it takes in the northern part of Springfield (the state capital), some Republican-leaning suburbs north and west of the city, and rural turf that stretches west of the capital almost to the Mississippi River. In the southeast, it runs to northern Decatur.

The middle-class city of Peoria is the 18th's population center and hosts five hospitals, a University of Illinois College of Medicine campus and Bradley University. Peoria's population as a whole increased slightly over the last decade, and the minority populations now account for a larger share of the still largely white city's populace.

The downtown area works to remain vibrant, with continuing development of corporate, government, medical, convention and educational sites. Many of the city's residents live in high-rise condominiums, riverfront lofts or converted office and warehouse apartments. Local leaders have been pursuing funding for passenger rail connections, either to Bloomington-Normal or to Chicago.

In much of this predominately agricultural district, voters worry about crop prices, ethanol, free trade and estate taxes. The district's economic health still depends on Peoria-based manufacturer Caterpillar, which makes earth-moving and other heavy machinery. The manufacturer is still the largest employer in the county, and any layoffs by the company can unsettle residents.

Peoria, with its strong manufacturing base, tends to vote Democratic, but the Republican lean of rural areas north of Springfield and in the district's west tips the 18th to the GOP. In the 2008 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama won 60 percent of Peoria's vote, but Republican John McCain won the district overall with 50 percent.

Major Industry

Manufacturing, ethanol and grain products, agriculture, health care

Cities

Peoria, 115,007; Springfield (pt.), 59,545; Pekin, 34,094; East Peoria, 23,402

notable

Abraham Lincoln's tomb in Springfield is a state historic site.

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