Multiple members face primaries under new Illinois map

Democrats could gain a seat even as state delegation shrinks

Illinois Rep. Marie Newman announced she would challenge fellow Democrat Sean Casten in the state’s redrawn 6th District.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Illinois Rep. Marie Newman announced she would challenge fellow Democrat Sean Casten in the state’s redrawn 6th District. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted October 29, 2021 at 3:16pm

Democrats in the Illinois legislature have finalized a new House map that would pair up three sets of incumbents in a plan designed to give their party an additional seat in the chamber even as the state’s delegation shrinks.

The new lines approved late Thursday created two potential Republican pairings: Reps. Adam Kinzinger and Darin LaHood outside Chicago, and Reps. Mike Bost and Mary Miller downstate. The map may have pushed Kinzinger to announce his retirement Friday, though he was also facing intense pressure after having voted to impeach President Donald Trump.

“I also remember during that campaign saying that if I ever thought it was time to move on from Congress, I would, and that time is now,” Kinzinger said in a statement, referring to his successful first run for the House in 2010.

The newly created 16th District takes in much of LaHood’s former seat in the Bloomington and Peoria suburbs and conservative parts of the state in northwest Illinois.

With Democrats holding only a narrow House majority, redistricting efforts could have a significant impact on control of the chamber after the 2022 midterms. Anti-gerrymandering advocacy groups such as RepresentUs have criticized several maps approved so far, including the one in Texas, which will have only one competitive seat in the Rio Grande Valley.

The final Illinois map received an “F” on a report card issued by RepresentUs and the Princeton Gerrymandering Project. The map favors Democrats and incumbents and creates sinuous districts that split more communities than needed, the report card said.

The new map’s 4th District also created a potential Democratic primary battle between Reps. Marie Newman and Jesús “Chuy” García in Chicago. 

Newman to challenge Casten

Rather than run in the new district, Newman announced Friday she would run in the nearby 6th District, which is currently held by Democrat Sean Casten and would fold in much of her current territory.

“I am proud to announce that I am once again running to represent the residents of Chicago’s Southwest Side and our neighbors in the surrounding west and southwest suburbs,” Newman said in a statement. “The lion’s share of this new district is made up of the communities and residents I represent today and I look forward to continuing to serve them in Congress.”

The final map, which awaits Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signature, would create a new minority opportunity 3rd District in Chicago for the Hispanic and Latino community. 

A previous draft of the map lumped Newman and Casten in a district that stretched into the Chicago suburbs. Newman entered Congress in January after winning a 2020 primary against the more conservative longtime Rep. Daniel Lipinski. Casten unseated Republican Rep. Peter Roskam in 2018.

García, who lives in the same district as Newman under the final map, was also first elected in 2018, succeeding retiring Democrat Luis V. Gutiérrez. At the end of the third quarter, on Sept. 30, García had $268,000 in his campaign coffers, compared with $438,000 for Newman, according to Federal Election Commission data. Casten had $1 million in the bank.

Bost, who faces a possible primary against Miller in the new 12th District, blasted Pritzker in a statement for going back on a campaign pledge for the state to adopt an independent commission for redistricting.

“When he ran for office, Gov. Pritzker pledged to veto any congressional map that wasn’t drawn by a fair and independent commission. But now he’s changed his tune in a desperate ploy to help Nancy Pelosi keep the majority in Congress,” Bost said. “This map is a gerrymandered mess, and anyone who cares about the will of Illinois voters should reject it.”

LaHood, García, Newman and Miller could not be immediately reached Friday for comment. 

14 of 17 seats went for Biden

Republicans in the state Senate and House blasted the map for favoring Democrats overwhelmingly even as Illinois is losing a House seat through reapportionment. President Joe Biden would have won 14 of the 17 seats under the new map, up from the 13 of 18 he secured last fall, according to the Princeton Gerrymandering Project.

“This will be the most gerrymandered map in the country,” Republican state Sen. Don DeWitte said during floor debate. “And this process will be used as the poster child for why politicians should never be allowed to draw their own maps.”

In the downstate matchup, Bost would be running for his fifth term, while Miller would be seeking her second. At the end of the third quarter, Bost had $647,000 on hand, compared with Miller’s $431,000.

Pritzker’s signature would make Illinois the seventh state to finalize its congressional map, and the second state to do so after losing a seat to reapportionment following the 2020 census.

A few maps so far have paired incumbents in the same seat, including Iowa potentially pitting Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks against Democrat Cindy Axne and West Virginia setting up a primary clash between Republicans David B. McKinley and Alex X. Mooney. West Virginia’s new map was signed into law last week, while Iowa’s map, approved Thursday by the state legislature, awaits Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds’ signature.

Dozens of states will likely finalize their maps in the next few months as candidate filing deadlines for next year’s primaries creep closer. Pandemic-driven delays in census data delivery have truncated the mapmaking process in many states.