Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Non-Illinoisan's Guide to the 2014 Illinois Primary (Written by an Illinoisan)


This Tuesday is the Illinois primary, that biennial exercise of democracy --er, vote-- that reminds us of the sorry state of gubernatorial politics in the Land of Lincoln. Here's a quick breakdown:

Governor: To the disappointment of some state Democrats, Pat Quinn should cruise through his party's nomination --his fourth straight on the gubernatorial ticket-- aspiring for a second full term as Illinois' top official. What was expected to be a wide-open race for this vulnerable incumbent was all but settled by last September. Attorney General Lisa Madigan was forced to bow out because of a potential scandal involving her father, State Speaker of the House Michael Madigan. Former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley (son of Richard J, brother of Richard M) made a halfhearted sprint before quitting for personal reasons. Anti-violence activist Tio Hardiman, Quinn's sole remaining competitor, was never a factor in the race.

The GOP race is not as crowded as 2010's logjam --seven candidates in the running, with Bill Brady winning by less than 200 votes-- but there's a few familiar faces. The brash, polarizing Brady is running a second time against Bruce Rauner (a millionaire political novice), Kirk Dillard (a state senator and perennial bridesmaid), and state treasurer Dan Rutherford. Also unlike 2010, where a cluster of candidates from the same geographical area cancelled each other out, the four GOP hopefuls represent disparate parts of the state: Rauner is a Chicago native, Brady from Bloomington-Normal, Dillard from the west suburbs of Chicago, and Rutherford from small-town Pontiac. Recent polls suggest that Rauner will edge out Dillard to face the doddering Quinn.

U.S. Senate: Three-term incumbent and DC power-broker Dick Durbin is not facing any serious competition for the Democratic nomination. For the first time, however reelection is no sure thing; growing dissatisfaction by moderates and centrists toward the Obama administration will result in a tight race, regardless of who wins the GOP nomination.

On the Republican side, dairy magnate Jim Oberweis is by far the most recognizable name on the ballot. Also known as a politically active investment manager, Oberweis had lost five state elections at various levels before finally winning a Illinois Senate seat in 2012. Polls suggest that the fractured Illinois GOP will likely tilt toward Oberweis, as rival Doug Truax is in third place behind "undecided." In spite of endorsements from former Rep. Newt Gingrich and the Chicago Tribune, Truax's first run for public office will likely falter to Oberweis' deep coffers.

Congress: All 18 of Illinois' seats in the House of Representatives are on the ballot (duh) and though there are a few close races here and there, the state in general is likely to keep leaning Democrat. In the 13th District, GOP incumbent Rodney Davis is facing little opposition from challenger Erika Harold, though he might face a close race against Democratic frontrunner Ann Callis. The recently rearranged 17th District pits incumbent Democrat Cheri Bustos against her predecessor and 2012 opponent, Republican Bobby Schilling. Even if the House as a whole keeps leaning toward the right, the Land of Lincoln will help buffer a potential GOP blowout.

In spite of my cynical words, I encourage anyone reading this to please vote in your local primary this year, and most crucially in the midterm election this November. Even when the White House isn't at stake, there's a lot of issues on the docket and the future of American democracy is constantly shifting. Don't wait until the next presidential election to make your voice heard.

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