Illinois redistricting proposal creates new Hispanic seat, sets up member-vs.-member races

Illinois Democrats on Saturday proposed new congressional district lines that would create a second heavily Hispanic district in Chicago, after Hispanic activists complained that a surge in population over the last decade did not translate into new political power.

But the new maps, which would likely lock in a massive advantage for Democrats over the next decade, set up a high-stakes game of political musical chairs, pitting as many as six sitting incumbents against members of their own party in next year's primary elections.


The proposal appears to favor Democrats in 14 of the 17 seats in Congress Illinois will get for the next decade. Currently, Democrats hold 13 of 18 seats, though the state loses a district after a decade of tepid growth.

For the last several decades, Illinois mapmakers have drawn the city's biggest enclaves of Hispanic voters into one district that resembles a giant "C," a seat currently held by Rep. Chuy Garcia (D). The new version splits that district into two - one stretching from near Wicker Park west into Wheaton and West Chicago, the other concentrated around Cicero and Midway Airport and northwest into Melrose Park.

The northern 3rd District would be 47 percent Hispanic and just under 40 percent white, according to demographic data released by the state House of Representatives. The southern 4th District would be 65 percent Hispanic and a quarter white. Garcia lives in the 4th District.

"The changes made in this updated congressional map will help ensure the diversity of Illinois is reflected in Washington," state Sen. Omar Aquino (D), who chairs the Senate Redistricting Committee, said in a statement.

To create the new Hispanic-heavy district, mapmakers shuffled the borders of neighboring seats in a way that will pit two rising star Democrats against each other: A new 6th District, stretching from Oak Lawn west and north to Lombard, includes the homes of both Reps. Marie Newman (D) and Sean Casten (D).

One of the three Republican-heavy seats, running from the Bloomington suburbs north to the border with Wisconsin, includes the homes of both Reps. Darin LaHood (R) and Adam Kinzinger (R). A second GOP-heavy district that covers the southern third of the state draws Reps. Mike Bost (R) and Mary Miller (R) together.

Voters in both of those districts favored former President Trump by huge margins in the 2020 elections.

The proposal, similar to the first version released by state Democrats earlier this month, creates a new Democratic-leaning district that stretches like a crooked finger from the suburbs of St. Louis north and east, through the state capital in Springfield to Decatur and Champaign.

Voters in that district backed President Biden by a narrow margin last year. Nikki Budzinski (D), a former Obama administration official, has already said she will run for the seat.

Legislators will hear testimony on the new proposals beginning in the state House on Tuesday and the state Senate on Wednesday. The maps are not final, though Republicans have already signaled they would bring a lawsuit if the legislature approves the new lines.