Besides the congressional races, we have a gubernatorial and Senate race in Illinois this year. As for the Governor’s race, incumbent Democrat Pat Quinn is probably the most unpopular governor seeking reelection this year. He is running against Bruce Rauner who looked like a shoo-in a few months ago, but has slipped of late. This may be indicative of Illinois politics in general which tend to be dominated by the Chicago area. In short, the fine liberal folks of Chicago are accustomed to corruption and inept leadership, thus they are more accepting of a boob like Quinn.
The Democratic Party in Illinois isn’t above or below nothing in order to retain power, so I am a little leery of polls showing Bruce Rauner in the lead. The most reliable of the recent polls since August (CBS/New York Times) places Rauner 4 points up with an average of 5.5 points up overall. August polls had Rauner up 8 points which dissipated to 0.4 point average in September. And there is nothing in the news out of Illinois which would suggest such a precipitous drop. Going simply on Illinois history, I am predicting a very close race here with Quinn winning by a single point or two.
In the Senate race, incumbent Democrat Dick Durbin faces Republican Jim Oberweis who has performed quite well in the fund raising department if not the polling department. Generally, Republican candidates for Senate in Illinois since 1990 lose by an average of 19 points. Oberweis trails by an average of 11 points which is good. However, he is trending backwards and may have hit his high water mark. At one time, this could have been a more interesting race, but there is no way Illinois voters are going to show their scant opposition to Obama by voting Durbin out of office. Prediction: Durbin by about 15 points.
The Illinois congressional delegation currently favors the Democratic Party 12-6. Leaving aside the metropolitan Chicago area districts, there are some competitive races that may cost incumbents on both sides of the aisle their seats in the House. The race in the Tenth District, which comprises the northern suburbs of Chicago, is represented by Democrat [mc_name name=’Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’S001190′ ], a seat formerly held by Bob Dold whose home was drawn out of the district after the 2010 redistricting. Dold is back for a run for his former seat. Unless your name is [mc_name name=’Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’K000360′ ], the races here have been very close and this year should be no different. This writer is predicting that Schneider will hold on by the skin of his teeth.
The 11th District comprises the western suburbs of Chicago and is represented by Democrat [mc_name name=’Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’F000454′ ] who will take on Republican Darlene Senger. Like most districts that went for Obama in 2008, Democratic support dropped off in the 2012 presidential race. This was a district that twice voted for Bush in 2000 and 2004. Foster defeated Judy Biggert in 2012. Like the 10th, polling is close with Senger trailing by 5 points. Senger won a crowded primary and barely beat her nearest opponent, Chris Balkema. Although Senger is a fine candidate, this writer believes that Foster will prevail in a close race this year.
The 12th District covers a large swath of land in the southwestern part of the state and [mc_name name=’Rep. Bill Enyart (D-IL)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’E000292′ ], a Democrat, represents it. Enyart came to the job as a replacement for the Democratic primary winner, Brad Harriman, who dropped out for health reasons. A committee appointed Enyart as his replacement. With Obama at the top of the ticket, he defeated Republican Jason Plummer who led in all polls leading up to Election Day. The victory was by 9 points. This year, he will face Mike Bost. Will 2012 repeat itself since Bost leads in polling thus far by about 5 points? Enyart portrays Bost as “Meltdown Mike” for a legislative tirade while Bost has fired back labeling Enyart “Beltway Bill.” What is interesting here is the gubernatorial race. Pat Quinn has dismal numbers in this area of the state and Democrats fear he will be a drag down ticket. Additionally, Bost outperformed Enyart in fund raising in some quarters. Putting it altogether, the 12th District should have its first Republican representative since World War II.
Snaking from the western border of the state to its central portion, the 13th is considered the most competitive district in Illinois. [mc_name name=’Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’D000619′ ], a Republican, represents the district. In fact, a Republican has represented this district since 1895. This is Abraham Lincoln country. So even though competitive, it would be difficult seeing Democrat Ann Callis breaking that string this year. This district barely went for Romney in 2012 and Davis barely won over a political neophyte in 2012, capturing the seat by only 1,000 votes. Thus, although 2014 may not be the year for a switch, this is potentially Davis’ last two years in office.
The 16th is nominally rated Republican, represented by GOP [mc_name name=’Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’K000378′ ] and encompasses the further western suburbs of Chicago. Kinzinger will face Democrat Randall Olsen this year. This is the same district that gave us Everett Dirksen at one time. Kinzinger won a solid, but not exceptional victory in 2012 and should be reelected this year.
The final race of interest will occur in the 17th District along the northwestern border extending to Peoria and Springfield. [mc_name name=’Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’B001286′ ], a Democrat, won this seat in 2012 having defeated Bobby Schilling who is back for a rematch. Although this district can be swingish in nature, it is trending away from the GOP. Bustos is well-funded and the Democrats are working hard to defend this seat which this writer predicts Bustos will in a close 4-point race.
There are a few ballot questions of interest. One is advisory and asks that the state legislature increase the state’s minimum wage to $10 per hour. A second would mandate birth control coverage on all health insurance policies in the state, although one could expect legal challenges somewhere down the line. This is also an advisory question. The final (again, advisory) would increase state income taxes on those making $1 million or more and dedicating that revenue to education. All three of these questions, although advisory, are liberally populist in nature and should, unfortunately, boost Democratic voter turnout. In the more conservative southern part of the state, it may not make a difference locally, but as one moves north interest in these issues increases which may be enough to keep borderline Congressional districts Democratic and push Pat Quinn to reelection.
Overall, after gaining a seat in Illinois in the House, the GOP is up a net 6 seats.
Next: New Mexico, South Dakota and North Dakota