Two incumbent vs. incumbent congressional primaries spawned by Illinois’ political remapping were in the balance Tuesday night as the polls closed.
In the 6th District, which covers parts of Chicago’s west and southwest suburbs, Democratic Reps. Sean Casten and Marie Newman squared off. A similar intraparty battle, in which former President Donald Trump played a central role, took place downstate as Republican Rep. Rodney Davis faced Rep. Mary Miller.
Another major race was the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, where seven candidates were running to determine who will face Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth in November.
The 6th District primary was set in motion by Democratic mapmakers after Illinois’ stagnant population cost the state a congressional seat. Casten, a moderate from Downers Grove, was pitted against the progressive Newman, a La Grange resident who represents the 3rd District.
After that was reshuffled into a “lean Latino” district, Newman chose to take on Casten. Though representatives are not required to live in the district they represent, Newman’s campaign has said she will move into the 6th District if she wins.
The race grew heated despite a lack of substantial policy differences, with the candidates pointing at their opponents’ alleged ethical lapses. Casten faces a Federal Election Commission inquiry into finance issues from his 2018 campaign, while Newman is the subject of a congressional probe into allegations she offered a staff job to a potential opponent to keep him off the 2020 ballot.
But the race took a dramatic turn two weeks ago, when Casten’s 17-year-old daughter Gwen died suddenly at home (the DuPage County coroner has yet to release a cause or manner of death). The ferocious campaigning paused, though each candidate was active on social media in the week before the election.
Charles Hughes, a former precinct worker for Bill Lipinski in the Garfield Ridge neighborhood west of Midway, was also in the race.
A six-candidate field was vying for the nomination in the 6th District’s Republican primary.
Another insular battle played out in the 15th District, which remapping shifted from the southeastern part of the state to a central and western slice of Illinois. When Miller, a congressional freshman, saw her Oakland home narrowly drawn into a district with another Republican, U.S. Rep. Mike Bost of Murphysboro, she decided to challenge Davis, a five-term incumbent from Taylorville.
Miller is on the far right wing of the party, and from the start of her term has made remarks critics regard as proof of her extremism, though she has called them misunderstandings or misstatements.
Just days after taking office, she faced demands for her resignation after saying in a speech that “Hitler was right on one thing: He said, ‘Whoever has the youth has the future.’ ”
She apologized and accused critics of “trying to intentionally twist my words to mean something antithetical to my beliefs.”
Last week, at a rally with Trump in Mendon, Illinois, Miller called the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade a “historic victory for white life.”
Her campaign said she meant to say “right to life” and complained about being persecuted by “the fake news vultures.”
While Miller flexed her Trump endorsement and battered her opponent as a supposed RINO — Republican in name only — Davis noted he was one of four co-chairs of Trump’s presidential reelection bid and was among the Republicans who helped write Trump’s tax cut legislation in 2017, which Davis wants to make permanent.
He has portrayed himself during the campaign as someone who can get things done, pointing to his work as a senior GOP member of the House Agriculture Committee. He has noted that his seniority would make him the next chairman of the House Administration Committee.
The winner will face Democrat Paul Lange in the fall, though a GOP victory seems assured given that the district is 67% Republican.
Another bruising race came in the Republican primary for Illinois’ junior seat in the U.S. Senate.
Kathy Salvi, a Mundelein attorney, has been the establishment’s choice, staking out traditional party positions, raising the most money and winning the endorsement of a number of Republican organizations.
She holds conservative views such as opposition to abortion and support for a wall along the country’s southern border. In a candidate forum with the Daily Herald, she did not directly answer when asked if the 2020 presidential election was stolen.
Three of her primary opponents — Geneva financial planner Bobby Piton, Belleville ex-cop Peggy Hubbard and Jimmy Lee Tillman II, son of former Chicago Ald. Dorothy Tillman — had no such hesitation, repeating the false election theft claim during their campaigns.
The winner will likely face a tough race against Duckworth, who did not have a primary opponent. She had more than $7 million of campaign funds available as of March 31 and plenty of statewide name recognition.
In the 8th District, which stretches through Chicago’s northwest suburbs, three-term Democratic incumbent Raja Krishnamoorthi faced Junaid Ahmed.
Ahmed, a small technology business owner and consultant from South Barrington, had accused Krishnamoorthi of becoming beholden to special interests and political action committees. Krishnamoorthi said he has challenged special interests and touted endorsements from stalwart Democratic allies such as Planned Parenthood and the Sierra Club.
The race flared recently when Krishnamoorthi criticized Ahmed for tweeting in support of a protest that included the chants, “Nazis out, Raja must go,” and “Krishnamoorthi, murdabad” — an Urdu or Hindi word Krishnamoorthi said means “death to.”
Though two University of Chicago professors who teach Hindi said the word is a figure of speech used frequently in Indian politics, Ahmed said he had not been aware of the chant and condemned such language.
On the Republican side of the 8th District, five candidates are going after the seat.
Political mapmakers reoriented the 14th District from the far northwest suburbs to the western exurbs and rural areas beyond, but incumbent Rep. Lauren Underwood still drew no challenger in the Democratic primary.
Meanwhile, a five-candidate pack was competing to be her Republican opponent in November.
In the 11th District, a west suburban enclave that added a chunk of McHenry County in redistricting, incumbent Rep. Bill Foster, a Democrat, faced no primary opposition. A field of six Republicans battled it out to replace him in November.