With more than 3 million ballots already cast statewide, Illinois Democrats see this year’s election as an opportunity to seize on President Donald Trump’s unpopularity and bolster their already sizable advantage in the state legislature. Meanwhile, Republicans are hoping make gains by highlighting a recent string of federal indictments that have resulted in several Democratic lawmakers being charged and implicated House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago).
During the 2018 election cycle, Democrats grew their majority in the legislature by seven seats in the House and three seats in the Senate. Today, Democrats control 74 of the 118 seats in the House and 40 of the 59 seats in the Senate, enough for a supermajority in both chambers.
This year, of the 118 House seats on the ballot, 50 races have no challenger. Of those, 42 are unchallenged Democrats while eight are Republicans. There are also 10 races with no incumbent on the ballot. Of those, four seats are held by departing Democrats and six by exiting Republican lawmakers.
In recent weeks, Democratic-aligned campaign committees have poured thousands of dollars into races in suburban areas, where Trump struggles with popularity. Republicans have steadily amplified a message of criticism of Madigan and opposition to Gov. JB Pritzker’s proposed graduated income tax amendment.
CNalysis, a political forecaster that examines legislative races, expects nine House seats currently being represented by a Republican to flip. The organization forecasts losses for Reps. Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield), John Cabello (R-Machesney Park), Amy Grant (R-Wheaton), Deanne Mazzochi (R-Elmhurst), Tom Morrison (R-Palatine), Allen Skillicorn (East Dundee), Brad Stephens (R-Rosemont) and Grant Wehrli (R-Naperville).
The only incumbent Democrat CNalysis expects to lose is Rep. Nathan Reitz (D-Steeleville).
“The count in Illinois is so high for flips because it has a lot of districts, especially in suburbs, trending toward Democrats,” Charles Nuttycombe, director of CNalysis, told The Daily Line.
Since late September, The Daily Line has highlighted 10 competitive House races. The following are a few more worth keeping an eye on as results come in Tuesday.
District 45 – Rep. Diane Pappas v Seth Lewis
In 2018, Pappas (D-Itasca) defeated Republican Christine Winger by 672 votes, with more than 40,000 ballots cast in the election. A one-term incumbent with an already sizable war chest that totaled nearly $328,000 as of mid-October, Pappas has benefited from $295,000 in contributions from key Democratic committees controlled by Madigan in the last two weeks.
Lewis entered the race after former Bartlett village trustee Michael Camerer, who won the March Republican primary, died. Lewis, a small business owner who twice unsuccessfully ran for the state Senate, was selected by the local Republican Party to replace Camerer. In the last two weeks, top Republican campaign committees have given $63,300 in contributions to Lewis, who also received $5,800 from billionaire Ken Griffin. Lewis also personally lent his campaign $100,000 in mid-October.
Between July 1 and Sept. 30, Pappas reported spending $636,700 while Lewis had $3,000 in expenditures.
District 47 – Rep. Deanne Mazzochi v Jennifer Zordani
Mazzochi beat Democrat Jim Caffrey by 1,577 votes in 2018 to win her first term in the legislature representing a cluster of Chicago’s western suburbs. Since then, she’s been openly critical of Madigan and is one of three Republicans appointed to the special House investigating committee.
In October, a report in Patch highlighted comments Mazzochi made in 2016 about President Barack Obama that Equality Illinois called “transphobic.”
A practicing regulatory attorney, Zordani faced no opposition in the March Democratic primary. Her bid came more than two years after she was one of several candidates to run in the 2018 Democratic Primary to represent Illinois’ 6th Congressional District. She finished sixth, well behind first-place finisher Sean Casten, who holds the seat.
In the last two weeks, Madigan-aligned committees have given Zordani $341,800 in contributions while Republican committees have provided nearly $43,500 to Mazzochi, who in mid-October received a $200,000 contribution from Griffin.
District 51 – Rep. Mary Edly-Allen v Chris Bos
Edly-Allen (D-Libertyville) narrowly defeated Republican Helene Walsh in the 2018 election with a 374-vote advantage. The freshman lawmaker will face Bos, an Ela township trustee and pastor, who has frequently criticized the proposed tax amendment while running on a platform of being pro-life.
Since Oct. 19, top Democratic committees gave Edly-Allen $179,100 in contributions. She spent $112,800 on the race in the latest reporting period, with another $468,000 available in the bank.
Bos has not received any contributions from his party since the end of September and reported spending $14,400 in the latest period, with $4,000 available.
District 66 – Rep. Allen Skillicorn v Suzanne Ness
Since being elected in 2016, Skillicorn has been one of the more ardent Trump supporters in the legislature. He handily defeated his Democratic opponent in 2016 and faced no opposition two years later.
But in September, Politico reported Skillicorn briefly considered not running for reelection before ultimately opting to stay in the race. Since then, Skillicorn has run a nearly non-existent campaign, reporting only $150 in expenditures despite having $92,500 available.
Ness, a McHenry County board member, reported spending $411,300 in the latest period. In the last two weeks, she’s gotten more than $649,000 in donations from Democratic Party committees, including a $569,000 transfer in.
District 68 – Rep. John Cabello v Dave Vella
First elected in 2012, Cabello has faced Democratic opponents in three of the last four elections. In 2018, he beat Democrat Jake Castanza by 1,072 votes. But this year, Cabello faces Vella, a Rockford-based Democrat and former public defender.
Cabello made headlines earlier this year when he sued the governor for his stay-at-home order. He dropped the case in July. Cabello reported spending $19,500 during the latest reporting period and has gotten no financial support from his party in the last two weeks, with the notable exception of a $40,000 transfer in from House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs).
Vella spent $423,500 in recent months, with nearly $300,000 available. Since Oct. 19, he’s accepted $63,200 in contributions from his party, as well as $50,000 and $47,800 from the Illinois Pipe Trades PAC and the IBEW Illinois PAC, respectively.
District 70 – Rep. Jeff Keicher v Paul Stoddard
Appointed to the legislature in July 2018, Keicher (R-Sycamore) was challenged by Stoddard in the general election that year. Keicher won by 1,352 votes out of the roughly 39,200 ballots cast.
Republican committees have given $74,700 in contributions to Keicher in the last two weeks. He reported a balance of $142,500 in the last reporting period and $43,000 in expenditures.
Unlike many other Democrats, Stoddard has not received any financial support from top Democratic Party committees in recent months, reporting a balance of just $3,100 and $27,900 in expenditures.
District 97 – Rep. Mark Batinick v Harry Benton
First elected in 2014, Batinick has successfully staved off Democratic opponents in two of three general elections. His win in 2018 was narrow: he beat Mica Freeman by 590 votes out of the more than 44,300 ballots cast.
Unlike many Republicans, Batinick has praised the governor’s handling of the pandemic, giving him a “B” grade in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times. Batinick was an early advocate for a mask mandate.
Benton, a Plainfield village trustee, has received $256,400 in contributions from Democratic Party committees in the last two weeks, along with a $115,800 donation from Chicagoland Operators Joint Labor Management PAC on Oct. 14 and a $215,000 contribution from Rep. Lance Yednock on Oct. 15. He reported a balance of $331,900 at the end the last reporting period, spending $346,500.
District 20 – Rep. Brad Stephens v Michelle Darbro
Stephens, who is also the mayor of Rosemont, was appointed to the legislature in June 2019 after longtime Republican Rep. Michael McAuliffe resigned. He was unopposed in the March GOP primary and faces Democrat Michelle Darbro, a firefighter and paramedic. The district includes parts of Chicago’s Edison Park and Norwood Park neighborhoods, the only swath of the city represented by a Republican in Springfield.
Darbro has received significant financial support from the Illinois Democratic Party and has spent more than $300,000 on ads for broadcast TV. Overall, she reported $540,800 in expenditures in recent months and has received $93,200 from Democratic groups in the last two weeks. House Majority Leader Greg Harris (D-Chicago) also gave her $14,000 on Oct. 22.
Stephens reported having $153,800 on hand at the end of the latest reporting period and spent $173,800. Since then, the Republican Party has given him $78,100.
Previous Daily Line election previews:
By the numbers:
- 25 – incumbent Republicans facing only a Democratic challenger
- 17 – incumbent Democrats facing only a Republican challenger
- 9 – number of Libertarian candidates on the ballot
- 7 – number of races with three or more candidates
- 6 – incumbent Democrats facing one third-party or Independent challenger
- 6 – number of Green Party candidates on the ballot
- 3 – incumbent Republicans facing one third-party or Independent challenger
- 3 – number of Independent candidates on the ballot
- 1 – number of Pro-Gun Pro-Life Party candidates on the ballot
- 1 – number of Constitution Party candidates on the ballot
Of the 22 Senate races on the ballot this year, eleven have no challenger. Of those, two are unchallenged Republicans: Rep. Terri Bryant (R-Murphysboro), who is running for the seat left open after Sen. Paul Schimpf (R-Waterloo) opted to not run again, and Win Stoller, who is running for the seat held by Sen. Chuck Weaver (R-Peoria)
There are six Senate races with no incumbents. Of those, two seats are held by departing Democrats and four by exiting Republican lawmakers.
Unlike in the House, CNalysis, the legislative forecaster, expects only one Senate seat to flip. The organization projects the seat held by Sen. Jim Oberweis (R-North Aurora), who is running for Congress, will to go to Democrat Karina Villa.
In recent weeks, The Daily Line highlighted several notable Senate races. The following are a few more worth keeping an eye on Tuesday:
District 43 – John Connor v Ben Bierly
Currently serving in the House, Connor (D-Lockport) was appointed to the legislature in 2017. Before the 2018 general election, Connor’s Republican opponent Lisa Bickus dropped out of the race, leaving him unopposed.
This time he’s running for the Senate seat left open by Democrat Sen. Pat McGuire’s departure, facing Ben Bierly, a disabled veteran and political science professor, who was unopposed in the March primary.
Connor has received no contributions from Democratic Party leadership committees in recent months. Bierly’s campaign finance reports were not available on the Illinois State Board of Elections website.
District 46 – Sen. David Koehler v Mary Burress
First appointed to the legislature in 2006, Koehler (D-Peoria) was unopposed in 2016, when he last faced voters. In 2012, he defeated Republican Pat Sullivan by nearly 7,000 votes.
This year, he’s opposed by Tazewell treasurer Mary Burress, who was the sole candidate in the March Republican primary.
During the latest reporting period, Koehler reported spending $721,400, with $225,400 available. Koehler’s campaign was bolstered by a $100,000 transfer in by the Illinois Democratic Heartland Committee on Oct. 20.
Last quarter, Burress spent nearly $450,000, with a balance of $42,000. RSSCC — a key Republican committee — transferred $150,000 to her on Oct. 26. Days earlier, she received another $55,000 from RSSCC and $58,000 from the Illinois Republican Party.
District 49 – Meg Loughran Cappel v Tom McCullagh
The race to replace Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Shorewood) features Democrat Meg Loughran Cappel, a Joliet township school board member and small business owner, and Republican Tom McCullagh, a small business owner supported by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
The two Senate candidates have a significant financial divide between them. ISDF – which is controlled by Senate President Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) – gave $50,000 to Loughran Cappel on Oct. 21, which was followed by another $50,000 contribution from the Illinois Pipe Trades PAC days later. ISDF gave her campaign another $44,400 in contributions on Oct. 21. Overall, Loughran Cappel reported $375,000 in expenditures in the last quarter and a balance of $109,000.
McCullagh reported spending $20,200 during the latest reporting period, with a balance of $6,500. In recent weeks, he’s received no financial support from his party.
Previous Daily Line election previews:
By the numbers:
- 6 – incumbent Democrats facing only a Republican challenger
- 2 – number of Republican candidates facing no challenger
- 1 – incumbent Democrats facing third-party challenger
- 1 – number of Democracy in America candidates on the ballot
- 0 – number of Independent, Green Party and Libertarian candidates on the ballot
0 – number of incumbent Senate Republicans facing a challenge