former U.S. House speaker Nancy Pelosi and current
Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, the 2011
Democratic remap of Illinois' congressional
districts was to have been a "perfect
was designed to scorch six Republicans from the
existing delegation in the 113th Congress,
flipping it from an 11-8 Republican advantage to a
13-5 Democratic edge, a net gain for the Democrats
in 2012 of at least five seats and a net loss to
the Republicans of six seats, including one seat
eliminated due to population loss. If Pelosi is to
retake the House, the Democrats must win 25
Republican-held districts, and her arithmetic
requires a five-seat gain in Illinois. If the
Republicans hold two or three of their endangered
seats, she is foiled.
redistricting process is much like osmosis, and it
requires time to ossify. Merely packing a district
with minority populations, college students, 2008
Barack Obama voters and past-voting Democrats does
not necessarily a victory make. Factors such as
candidate quality, incumbent popularity, funding
and national trends are operative. A
demographically "safe" Democratic
district, unless it has a minority population of
over 50 percent, is always an iffy proposition.
Democrats' expected firestorm has been momentarily
extinguished by the Republicans'
"firewall." The targeted Republicans --
Joe Walsh, Bob Dold, Judy Biggert and Bobby
Schilling, along with the Champaign-Urbana seat
being vacated by Tim Johnson -- are not going to
be easy turnovers, and the East Saint Louis-area
seat now held by the retiring Jerry Costello,
which has been Democratic since 1944 and where
Democrats have yet to field a replacement
candidate, likely will flip to the Republicans.
the early outlook:
District (East Saint Louis south to Cairo,
including Belleville, plus rural counties around
Mount Vernon): Costello, who was first elected in
1986, is the third-ranking Democrat on the House
Transportation Committee, where he can direct
plenty of federal pork -- meaning highway
construction dollars -- to his district. Costello
was re-elected in 2010 with 59.8 percent of the
vote, meaning he was safe, although down from his
71.4 percent in 2008. He was unopposed in 2006,
and he got 69.5 percent of the vote in 2004.
was thought that Costello would pass off the seat
to his son, who is a state representative, but the
elder Costello didn't want to wait a decade to
become the committee chairman, and Jerry Costello
II didn't yet want his dad's job. Nor did a bunch
of other prominent area Democratic legislators.
by default, the Democrats slated Brad Harriman,
the obscure Saint Clair County school
superintendent, who raised $370,000 through March
31. But Harriman quit the race on May 30, with no
replacement chosen -- a politically toxic
situation, as the new nominee will have only a
brief period to raise funds and become known.
Republican candidate is no powerhouse, but he is
somebody: Jason Plummer, the 2010 Republican
nominee for lieutenant governor, whose wealthy
family owns a chain of Downstate lumber yards.
Plummer had raised $250,000 through March 31.
the 2010 primary, Plummer faced state Senator Matt
Murphy of Palatine, the party establishment
choice. Plummer spent heavily Downstate, and he
eked out a 238,169-233,572 upset, a margin of
4,597 votes. Plummer demolished Murphy in the 11
counties in the old 12th District by 21,154-4,428.
In the 2010 election, the Brady-Plummer ticket
beat Pat Quinn and Sheila Simon in the district by
132,327-110,310, carrying the northern Madison
County suburbs (East Alton, Collinsville) by
11,322 votes and losing Saint Clair County (East
Saint Louis) by just 1,380 votes.
won the district 170,391-131,443 (with 56 percent
of the vote), largely because of his 28,202-vote
Saint Clair County majority; he won Madison County
by 11,802 votes. Democrat John Kerry won the
district with 52 percent of the vote in 2004. The
district's black population is 16.4 percent,
almost all living in East Saint Louis, a city with
one of the nation's highest crime rates; it's
population tumbled from 82,000 in 1960 to less
than 29,000 in 2010.
outlook: You can't beat somebody with nobody.
Plummer is young (age 30), energetic, well funded,
well known, a naval reserve officer and a
conservative. In 2010 the Chicago Sun-Times
endorsed Simon, snidely commenting on Plummer,
"We were reminded of the old joke -- he was
born on third base and thought he hit a
triple," and saying that he projects "a
certain unearned cockiness."
this 78 percent white district, the Obama-Romney
race will be close. If Romney wins, so will
Plummer. Unless the Democrats find a credible
candidate soon, they will gift this seat to the
District (West and southwest suburbs): 14-year
incumbent Biggert, of Hinsdale, is a pleasant,
likable, well known 74-year-old congresswoman with
a "moderate" voting record. (She is
pro-choice on abortion.) But her predicament this
year is akin to the hapless explorer in the
boiling pot surrounded by hungry cannibals
because, in fact, her old 13th District has been
cannibalized by the Democratic remappers. The
existing district was compact and contiguous,
taking in heavily Republican areas in southern
DuPage County (south of Interstate 88, including
Naperville, Woodridge, Downers Grove, Hinsdale and
Westmont), southwest Cook County (Orland Park,
Tinley Park, Lemont), and parts of northern Will
County (the north Joliet suburbs). She won with
63.8 percent of the vote in 2010, 53.6 percent in
2008, 58.3 percent in 2006 and 65.1 percent in
an ax, Madigan's creative mapmakers chopped out
every Republican-leaning bailiwick, creating a
convoluted new district. All of Aurora and Joliet,
both in a different district and both with large
Hispanic populations, were spliced in. Naperville,
with a large liberal vote, was kept in, as was the
Interstate 55 corridor, along Bolingbrook and
Romeoville, with a large Hispanic vote. Westmont,
Tinley Park, Orland Park and Hinsdale were sliced
out. Biggert's Hinsdale home was appended to
Democrat Mike Quigley's Chicago-based 5th
District, which stretches to Lincoln Park and the
district was created to elect a specific Democrat:
Bill Foster, a one-term former congressman whose
support for Obama and Obama's health-care program
got him bounced in 2010. Foster won a 2008 special
election by 5,075 votes and the November 2008
election by 49,751 votes, and he then
ignominiously lost in 2010 by 13,724 votes.
"Foster is far from a stellar
candidate," concluded a Roll Call article on
outlook: Foster has raised $1,229,000, and Biggert
has raised $1,299,000. One-quarter of the district
was in Foster's old area, half was in Biggert's,
and the rest is new. Turnout is the key. If
Hispanics don't flood the polls, Biggert wins.
District (Western Illinois: Rockford, Peoria, Quad
Cities): Another Democratic cannibalization, with
Schilling, a likable former pizza owner, as the
victim. The Democrats' problem is that it's tough
to cannibalize what's already been cannibalized.
In 2001 the Democrats solidified Lane Evans' hold
on the seat by stringing together every Western
Illinois Democratic stronghold: Rock Island,
Moline, Springfield and Decatur. The only
Republican area in the district was Quincy.
retired in 2006, after his nomination, and he
passed the seat to his top aide, Phil Hare. Hare
won by 28,864 votes in 2006 and was unopposed in
2008, and then he incredibly lost to underdog
Schilling in 2010 by 19,129 votes. In 2011 the
Springfield Democrats tried to re-cannibalize,
chopped off Quincy, Decatur and Springfield, and
ran the district north to the Wisconsin border,
adding Galena and Rockford. Their hand-picked 2012
candidate is Cheri Bustos, an obscure East Moline
alderman who is backed by Emily's List and who is
a fervent Obama supporter.
Democrats thought any Democrat could win the
district, but Schilling is a hugely popular
congressman with great appeal to the average
voter. Recent polls show Schilling leading Bustos
by better than 15 percent.
outlook: Schilling has raised $1,109,000, to
$811,000 for Bustos. Schilling voted as a
conservative and against "Obamacare." He
will frame the contest as Romney-Schilling vs.
Obama-Bustos. Does Bustos attack Schilling for
being anti-Obama? This looms as another Democratic
SNAFU. Edge to Schilling.
District (north Cook County suburbs and east Lake
County): Dold is not Mark Kirk, the current U.S.
senator who represented the district for a decade,
but he's inching closer. Kirk won by 78,275 votes
in 2004, getting 42,957 more votes than George
Bush got. Kirk won in 2008 by 14,802 votes,
getting 39,047 more votes than John McCain.
has $4 million in cash on hand, and he has
compiled a somewhat "moderate,"
Kirk-like record. His problem is that the remap
chopped out Palatine and Republican-leaning Cook
County suburbs and replaced them with Waukegan and
Zion, with Hispanic majorities. The Democrats'
problem is that their nominee, Brad Schneider, has
less charisma than a fire hydrant, and, having won
his primary with 46.9 percent of the vote, faces
an enthusiasm deficit. He has raised $1,035,000.
outlook: North Shore denizens are prickly and
counter-cyclical. They like "balance" --
a Democrat for president, a Republican for
Congress. Obama won 61 percent of the vote in the
district in 2008. To win, Schneider needs Obama to
get more than 58 percent of the vote, since 5 to 8
percent will opt for Obama-Dold and none of the
Romney voters will opt for Schneider. Slight edge
District (Champaign-Urbana, Bloomington, Decatur,
Springfield, Edwardsville): Another
cannibalization. Johnson's old 15th District ran
north-south from Pontiac to Mount Carmel; now it
runs east-west from Champaign-Urbana through
Decatur to Alton. It includes nine college towns.
district was created to elect a Democrat. It still
may. David Gill, who lost to Johnson in 2004, 2006
and 2010, beat the party choice in the 2012
primary and is running as an unabashed Obama
Democrat. Johnson resigned his 2012 nomination,
and the party picked Rodney Davis, an aide to U.S.
Representative John Shimkus, to run.
outlook: A serial loser, Gill is well known, and
the Democrats have already reserved $770,000 in
media advertising time. Davis is totally unknown.
This will be a very tight race.
prediction: In the next Congress, the state
delegation will be 10-8 Democrats.