Illinois Congressional Races: The Big Picture

While Democrats will find it hard to expand from a 10-9 majority, there are some excellent possibilities for pick-ups this cycle and an important seat to defend in IL-08.

Many on the left are angry with Bean, but it’s hard to tell how having Kathi Salvi or David McSweeney will be a better outcome for those on the left. I’m not sure the thought goes that far. The difference this time for Bean will be that running as an incumbent, and a well financed one, she’ll be running a different kind of race. Instead of just arguing that it’s time for a change, she’ll have to focus on what she has done for the District and make a values pitch to voters that she shares the values of the District better than her likely GOP opponent. Her money will be national money and not local money.

I’ll be removing her from the ACT Blue account simply because small scale donations don’t have the same impact for incumbents that they do for challengers. I’ll add someone else who is running a decent campaign and needs cash. This is not any indictment of Bean who I strongly support in that race.

The primary goal of those recruiting candidates and trying to make a decent run for a Blue State that, until Bean’s election, had more Republicans in the delegation, is to retain Bean. Everything else is gravy.

There may yet be some gravy. Two Democrats are vulnerable theoretically. Bean is certainly a top tier target and will face a big money challenger. The other potential vulnerable Democrat is Lane Evans who was just assessed a fine for FEC violations (okay a negotiated deal, but still a fine) and has one of the most bizarred Districts ever created. There don’t appear to be credible challengers to Evans in 2006 so while that could heat up, my guess is serious Republicans are eyeing when Evans retires.

Republicans are facing challenges in several seats, at least 3 of which are competitive Districts include 6, 10, and 11. 6, much has been written about and I’ve heard the Kerry numbers were 47% in that District making it a vulnerable seat. Three Democrats are running in the primary and Roskam is running on the Republican side. Cegelis was interviewed here for those interested.

Illinois 10 was not seriously contested last cycle, but is essentially a Democratic leaning District with Republican moderate Mark Kirk as the incumbent. He has well over $1 million in the bank. That much money isn’t just a danger to a potential challenger, it’s also a danger to Melissa Bean who is just next door. Zane Smith is running for the Democratic nomination with the strongest challenger, Susan Garrett bowing out.

Illinois 11 which slipped farther in the Republican column in the last Presidential race, also has a Congressman who doesn’t seem able to get any good press and has a strong challenger in John Pavich who had an excellent fundraising quarter.

On top of that 18 might be an open seat that while Republican leaning is a seat that could effectively be challenged by Democrats and Illinois 15 has David Gill running and trying to raise more money for this cycle.

Republicans will be playing serious defense in at least 2 Districts and attempting to hold 2 open seats if LaHood runs for Governor while Democrats will be attempting to defend one seat that’s tough and essentially have free rides for the rest of the Democratic candidates with the possible exception of Lipinski facing a primary challenge–though such a challenge won’t mean a serious threat of Republican takeover of IL-03.

The hope seems to be have been to spread the GOP thinner than it currently is, but it’s hard to get strong challengers. The biggest issue was specifically Kirk since he had a huge chunk he could spread around to support other candidates in various ways. The Republican Scrum for the Governor’s race has a lot of money going there keeping less money available for the House races.

With strong fundraising, campaign focus from the Emanuel, and a lot of relatively good press, the first part of the plan would seem to be in as good of shape as it could be given Bean is in a Republican District in terms of lean. While such a District is never safe, it’s as good as it can get for now.

But the bonus is that at least two Districts are in play and potentially another one for Democratic pickups–and that’s all gravy. None are what an objective analysis would call a likely pick-up, but all are those kind of Districts that shoud be challenged by an active Party trying to pick up seats. Even though many are calling for the DCCC’s head right now, the Illinois picture is one of the stronger cycles that Democrats have seen in years. Add to that challenges to Lipinski and there is a lot to look forward to in 2006.

Making more Districts competitive means the incumbents are better protected by forcing Republican’s to spend money in District’s they haven’t before with the added bonus of potentially picking up more seats.

There is a lesson for the pros out there that dismiss Cegelis. While I’m both critical and hopeful of Christine’s efforts, the better she does, the better others do.

UPDATED: Fixed because of really bad writing and some clarity issues.

2 thoughts on “Illinois Congressional Races: The Big Picture

  1. I love meaty articles like this. I was looking at a Charlie Cook review somewhere and his partisan index stuff reminded me of Chris Bowers and his partisan index work. Have you done that kind of thing?

  2. “Zane Smith is running for the Democratic nomination [against Mark Kirk] with the strongest challenger, Susan Garrett bowing out.”

    Sen. Garrett was never interested in that race. It was members (not Lauren Beth Gash, others) of the IL 10th Dems who were pushing Garrett to jump in, hoping they could create a groundswell of support to convince her that she had no reason not to try given she’s in an off-year.

    But every interview she did on the subject clearly showed she wasn’t interested; it was a small group of IL 10th Dems that were interested.

    So, in essence, she didn’t “bow out” because she never “bowed in”.

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