Tuesday’s Democratic primaries in Illinois are setting the stage for general election match-ups in four Republican-held districts that Democrats are targeting in November.
The primary in the 6th District wasn't called until Wednesday morning. Clean energy entrepreneur Sean Casten came in first in the seven-way primary and will now face GOP Rep. Peter Roskam in November in what Democrats had been billing as a top pick-up opportunityCasten led former financial adviser Kelly Mazeski 30 to 26 percent, with 100 percent of precincts reporting. Lawyer Carole Cheney, a former district chief of staff to Rep. Bill Foster, came in third with 17 percent of the vote, followed by 2016 nominee Amanda Howland with 12 percent.
Mazeski was leading narrowly for most of Tuesday night. She had support from EMILY’s List, which allowed her to spend her own campaign money on TV early. She also had the backing of Illinois Reps. Jan Schakowskyand Cheri Bustos and several of Bustos’ closest female allies in Congress. She'd loaned her campaign $295,000 by the end of the pre-primary reporting period.
Casten had loaned his campaign $630,000 by the end of the pre-primary reporting period, but also benefited from last-minute outside spending.
In the 3rd District, seven-term Democratic Rep. Daniel Lipinski survived a challenge from Marie Newman, chalking up a narrow 51 percent to 49 percent victory. As one of the most conservative Democratic members of Congress, Lipinski was heavily targeted by progressive groups, angered over his anti-abortion voting record and his previous opposition to the 2010 health care law.
But the incumbent also benefited from outside spending, and likely from his close ties to the local power structure and the ground game of the Chicago political machine.
St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly will be the Democratic nominee in the 12th District. He faced little opposition in the primary, winning with 81 percent of the vote.
Kelly was a top recruit for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which had tried to get him to run in previous cycles and quickly added him to its Red to Blue list once he entered the race.
He will now face two-term GOP Rep. Mike Bost in a downstate district that has trended away from Democrats in recent years. Former President Barack Obama carried the 12th District by double digits in 2008, but then by less than 2 points in 2012. The district voted for President Donald Trump by 15 points in 2016, while also backing Democrat Tammy Duckworth for Senate. This is the kind of district Democrats are hoping they can win back at the House level this year.
“It’s a district that Brendan Kelly fits into like a glove,” Illinois Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos said last week. She called him one of her “top interests this entire election cycle.”
Kelly outraised Bost each quarter he was in the race last year. Both ended the pre-primary reporting period that covered the first two months of the year with comparable cash on hand totals, although late spending for the primary likely cut into Kelly’s coffers.
Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the general election race Leans Republican.
Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan will face off against GOP Rep. Rodney Davis in the 13th District.
Londrigan topped a five-way primary field with 46 percent of the vote. She had the backing of EMILY’s List, Illinois Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin, for whom she used to be a fundraiser.
Former Illinois Assistant Attorney General Erik Jones finished second with 22 percent, while 2012 nominee David Gill (who beat the DCCC’s recruit that year) trailed in third place with 14 percent.
Democrats didn’t even recruit a top-tier candidate in the 13th District last cycle, when Davis won a third term by 19 points. Obama carried the district in 2008 but then narrowly lost it four years later. Trump took the district by 6 points.
Inside Elections rates it a Likely Republican race.
Lauren Underwood, a nurse and former Obama administration official, won the Democratic nomination to take on four-term GOP Rep. Randy Hultgren in the 14th District, which is regarded as the biggest reach on the DCCC’s Illinois target list.
Underwood, who had the backing of EMILY’s List, had 57 percent of the vote, with 99 percent of precincts reporting.
Engineer Matthew Brolley was in second with 13 percent of the vote. He had the endorsement of the state AFL-CIO and Illinois Reps. Bill Foster and Schakowsky. Underwood had raised more than double what Brolley raised by the end of the pre-primary reporting period.
Trump only carried this district by 4 points, but Hultgren won a fourth term by 19 points. Inside Elections rates the general election race Solid Republican.
One of the first races called Tuesday night was the 4th District, which is rated Solid Democratic. Cook County Commissioner Jesús “Chuy” Garcia easily won the three-way primary. He led with 66 percent of the vote with 97 percent of precincts reporting.
First-time candidate Sol Flores was in second place with 22 percent. She ran an underdog campaign against Garcia, who was anointed by the incumbent Luis V. Gutiérrez at the same November press conference where the 13-term congressman announced his retirement. Flores had the backing of EMILY’s List and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
Her campaign gained national headlines after it produced a moving video about her experience with sexual assault. But it wasn’t expected to be anywhere near enough to overcome the financial and name recognition advantage Garcia brought to the race.
The National Republican Congressional Committee placed one Democratic-held seat in Illinois on its target list last year — the 17th District represented by Bustos, who was unopposed in Tuesday’s primary. Bustos will face Republican real estate broker Bill Fawell, who was also unopposed. The NRCC’s favored candidate dropped out in January. While Trump carried the district by 1 point in 2016, the general election contest is rated Solid Democratic.