Update: Illinois Primary Answers
March 21, 2012
By Jim Ellis
Mitt Romney easily won the Illinois primary last night finishing exactly as the late polls predicted, 47-35% over Rick Santorum. Delegate-wise, it is more difficult to project this soon into the post-election process because Illinois is a "loophole primary" and voters were actually choosing individuals on the ballot to fill 66 of the 69 delegate positions. Romney will very likely exit Illinois with more delegates than the other candidates, but will he have enough to stay on track to reach the 1,144 committed delegates prior to the Republican National Convention in Tampa? It still may be too early to answer that question.
The congressional primaries brought few surprises, though the margin of veteran Rep. Don Manzullo's (R) defeat at the hands of freshman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL-11) raised more than a few eyebrows in the new 16th District. Polling had forecast an even race and it appeared Manzullo had the forward momentum toward the end of the campaign, but this clearly proved to be a misconception. Kinzinger won a 56-44% victory, a raw vote total of more than 9,000 votes. Since the Democrats did not file a candidate in the 16th District, Kinzinger is a lock in the general election. The county chairmen do have the power to meet and choose a nominee, but such a person would start in a major deficit position after this victory performance in what should be a reliable Republican seat.
In the Chicago area, Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL-2) destroyed former Rep. Debbie Halvorson's comeback attempt with a 71-29% Democratic primary win. He will easily win the November general election.
Turning to the new 8th District, which now should elect a Democrat, former Veterans Administration Assistant Secretary Tammy Duckworth (D), also a former congressional candidate, won an easy 66-34% win over ex-Deputy State Treasurer Raja Krishnamoorthi (D). She will now face freshman Rep. Joe Walsh (R) in what will be a very uphill battle for the short-term incumbent.
In the lakeside 10th District, attorney Brad Schneider (D) won a 47-39% win over political activist Ilya Sheyman (D), a favorite of the liberal "netroots" organizations. He will oppose freshman Rep. Bob Dold (R) in what will be a highly competitive general election race.
To the southwest in the new Chicago suburban 11th CD, Rep. Judy Biggert (R) will attempt to convert the marginal seat intended as a Democratic pick-up. Former Rep. Bill Foster (D), who lost his 14th District seat in 2010, won the Democratic nomination with 59% of the vote against two other opponents. This also will be a race to watch in the fall.
The open 12th District, with Rep. Jerry Costello (D) retiring, went as expected with both the commonly viewed favorites winning easy victories. Former St. Clair County School Superintendent Brad Harriman (D) racked up 70% in the Democratic primary pitting him against Republican Jason Plummer (R), the 2010 Lt. Governor nominee. This, too, will be a competitive campaign, though Harriman begins as the decided favorite.
At this writing the 13th District Democratic primary is still undecided, though it appears that 2010 nominee David Gill (D) will win a close victory. Incumbent Tim Johnson (R-IL-15), who hopped over into this marginal district rather than face an incumbent pairing against fellow GOP Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL-19) in the new 15th, certainly appears to have played his cards right. Johnson drew little opposition in the Republican primary and now draws a Democrat who he has beaten in two previous elections.
In the western Illinois 17th District, East Moline Alderwoman Cheri Bustos (D) cracked the 58% mark against two other candidates and will give freshman Rep. Bobby Schilling (R) all he can handle in the general election.
It is reasonable to expect heavy competition in six of the state's eighteen congressional districts. Democrats hope to net four seats when the dust settles in November. It is unclear how many they will actually win, but Dem gains are expected in the Land of Lincoln especially with favorite son Barack Obama again leading the top of the national ticket.
Jim Ellis is a professional election analyst who has worked in national campaign politics and grassroots issue advocacy since 1978. He currently writes and speaks as a member of the PRIsm Information Network.