Five races to watch in the Illinois primary

Greg Nash

Democrats and Republicans will sort out contentious primaries in Illinois next week as both parties test their appeal in the suburbs as well as voters’ appetite for outsider candidates.

Democrats in Illinois, like their counterparts elsewhere in the country, are seeing a candidate boom in congressional races. That’s especially true in suburban seats, which hold the key to a Democratic House majority.

{mosads}The Illinois primaries will also decide competitive primaries for governor and a fight between a Democratic incumbent who breaks with much of his party on abortion rights.

Here are five Illinois primaries to watch next Tuesday.

Democratic primary for Democratic Rep. Daniel Lipinski’s seat

The primary for Lipinski’s Chicago-area seat has become a microcosm of the national debate within the Democratic Party over abortion, with establishment Democrats trying to keep the party from shifting left.

Progressive groups have targeted Lipinski for his opposition to abortion rights, while also challenging his record on health care, immigration and LGBT issues. Lipinski voted against ObamaCare and the DREAM Act in 2010.

Pro-abortion rights groups like NARAL Pro-Choice America and EMILY’s List have rallied behind marketing consultant Marie Newman, a first-time candidate.

Newman’s campaign has picked up steam in the final weeks, recently nabbing an endorsement from progressive icon Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Lipinski still has more cash on hand than Newman, but she’s outraised him. In the pre-primary fundraising period that ran from Jan. 1 to Feb. 28, Newman outpaced Lipinski in fundraising, $534,000 to $227,000.

Lipinski, a co-chairman of the centrist Blue Dog Coalition, argues that his views fit the district he’s represented since he succeeded his father in the seat in 2005. Lipinski has a strong relationship with organized labor and a long history in the district, complicating Newman’s run.

Newman has a few endorsements from some of Lipinski’s House colleagues, but Democratic leaders are largely standing behind the incumbent. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) and Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) have all endorsed Lipinski.

Still, a recent poll conducted by NARAL found that Newman is within striking distance of Lipinski.

A victory for Newman would likely prompt debate over whether there’s room left in the party for anti-abortion Democrats.

Republican and Democratic primaries for governor

Insurgent candidates have scrambled both parties’ gubernatorial primaries.

It appeared all but certain that billionaire businessman J.B. Pritzker (D) would square off against Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner in November. Both men have deep pockets, setting up a spending race that’s on track to be the most expensive gubernatorial election in U.S. history.

Pritzker has poured more than $63 million into the race, while Rauner has spent more than $57 million of his own money for his reelection, according to Mother Jones.

And while polling still shows both well ahead in their respective primaries, uncertainty about both races’ outcomes has grown ahead of next Tuesday’s primary.

On the Democratic side, state Sen. Daniel Biss and businessman Chris Kennedy — the son of late Sen. Bobby Kennedy (D-N.Y.) — have gained on Pritzker.

A recent poll found that a large portion of the electorate is still up for grabs. Pritzker still leads by 19 points, but 31 percent of voters are undecided, according to the poll.

Pritzker’s rivals, including Rauner, have slammed him over a 2008 recording from an FBI investigation that surfaced last year in which Pritzker discussed his political ambitions with then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), who was later convicted for attempting to sell the appointment to the Senate seat once held by former President Obama.

Rauner only faces one competitor in the Republican primary: state Rep. Jeanne Ives. While she’s still far behind in the polls, Ives has frequently attacked Rauner for caving on conservative positions.

Rauner has grown increasingly unpopular during his first term, and he’s under fire from the right for supporting a bill that expands public funding for abortions. He’s also been dogged after an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease at a veterans’ home that killed 13 people.

Pritzker and Rauner are both expected to advance to the general election, but the primary fights have left them both bruised.

Democratic primary for GOP Rep. Peter Roskam’s seat

The race for Roskam’s seat will test if Democrats can make inroads in the suburban seats they need to win to take back the House in November.

Roskam’s seat is a top target for Democrats. Hillary Clinton won the district by 7 points in the presidential election, and nonpartisan election handicapper Cook Political Report rates the race as a toss-up.

All eyes are on the seven-candidate Democratic primary to see who will take on Roskam in the suburban Chicago district, which includes some of the state’s wealthiest areas.

Democrat Kelly Mazeski, a former financial adviser, is seen as one of the leading candidates of the crowded field. Mazeski has been the biggest spender in the race, buying TV ads in an expensive market. She’s also gotten support from some Illinois House members and EMILY’s List.

A breast cancer survivor, Mazeski jumped into the race on the same day that Republicans, including Roskam, voted to repeal ObamaCare last May.

Other candidates include Amanda Howland, who ran against Roskam in 2016; clean energy entrepreneur Sean Casten; and Carole Cheney, a former chief of staff for Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.). Cheney has also received some support from the state’s congressional delegation, including her former boss, Rep. Robin Kelly (D).

Still, Roskam has represented the district since 2007, and he’s proven to be a strong fundraiser. And while the district went for Clinton in 2016, Roskam won his reelection bid that same year by nearly 20 points.

Democratic primary for GOP Rep. Rodney Davis’s seat

Democrats are also hoping to pick a candidate who can take down Davis, whose district encompasses the area around Springfield and some rural areas. But President Trump won the district by more than 5 points in 2016, suggesting a tougher road ahead for the Democratic

Still, Democrats are hopeful that the right candidate and political environment could potentially put seats like Davis’s into play.

The Democratic primary features five candidates, with Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, a former political fundraiser for Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and attorney Erik Jones leading in fundraising.

Democrat David Gill, who’s unsuccessfully run against Davis before, is running more to the left, supporting free college tuition and a $15 minimum wage. But Gill has had lackluster fundraising numbers, and his progressive platform could struggle in a race where Republicans have the advantage.

Republican primary for Democratic Rep. Brad Schneider’s seat

Illinois’s 10th District has flipped back and forth since 2010. Schneider has faced off against former Rep. Bob Dold (R) during the past three cycles, holding the seat from 2013 to 2015 and then winning it back from Dold in 2016.

But Dold ruled out a fourth rematch against Schneider last year, opening up the district for other Republicans to vie for the nomination.

The Republican field includes computer consultant Douglas Bennett, attorney Jeremy Wynes and physician Sapan Shah, who’s leading the pack in fundraising. National Republicans haven’t weighed in on the primary in favor of any one candidate.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, the House GOP’s campaign arm, has added all three of the candidates to its On the Radar program, which highlights promising candidates running against vulnerable Democrats.

While the district has been a top priority for both parties in recent cycles, it is one that will be difficult for Republicans to take back — especially in a year where the political winds are expected to favor Democrats. And Clinton trounced Trump in the Chicago-area district by 30 points.

Plus, Dold’s victories in the district occurred during overwhelmingly strong years for Republicans. He first won the seat in 2010, when Republicans took back the House majority. After losing to Schneider during the 2012 presidential cycle, Dold won his seat back in 2014.

Tags Bernie Sanders Bill Foster Brad Schneider Daniel Lipinski Dick Durbin Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Nancy Pelosi Peter Roskam Robin Kelly Rodney Davis Steny Hoyer

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