September 17, 2003


75th District (Suburban Joliet and Kankakee: Morris, Braidwood, Watseka): Incumbent Democrat Mary O'Brien is retiring to run for the Appellate Court. She was first elected in 1996, after her Republican opponent made some sexist remarks. Bush carried the district with 53 percent of the vote in 2000, so it leans Republican.

The 2004 Republican nominee will be Morris police chief Doug Hayse, chairman of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police. The Democrat will be Jay Plese, a former teacher and member of the Wilmington city council. The outlook: Republican pick-up.

108th District (Effingham): Veteran Democrat Chuck Hartke, first elected in 1984, was appointed state agriculture director. Named to replace him was Bill Grunloh, vice chairman of the Effingham County Board, a conservative Democrat. Hartke was quite popular, but he had a close call in 2002, defeating Republican David Reis of Willow Hill by 3,662 votes (54.5 percent). Reis is running again in 2004.

The Effingham area is trending strongly Republican. Bush won the district with over 60 percent of the vote, and Republican John Jones unseated 18-year Democratic state Senator Bill O'Daniel in 2002 by a 5,473-vote margin (53.6 percent). The outlook: Both parties will lavishly fund this contest. Expect a Republican pick-up.

103rd District (Urbana): Madigan carefully redrew this district to cram it with students, and Democrat Naomi Jakobsson upset Republican incumbent Tom Berns by just 1,489 votes (52.9 percent) in 2002. Berns defeated a local sheriff by 2,420 votes (53.3 percent) in 2000. He won't run again. The Republicans have recruited Deb Feinen, a member of the Champaign County Board, known as a social liberal and an environmentalist. Bush got only 40 percent of the vote in 2000, but Feinen is the kind of candidate who appeals to Democrats and students. The outlook: Jakobsson is favored, but narrowly.

59th District (Southeast Lake County: parts of Deerfield, Vernon Hills): Democrat Kathy Ryg, then Lake County deputy recorder, won this seat in 2002 by 107 votes over Republican Roger Byrne, the Vernon Hills mayor. Ryg is an unabashed liberal, but she put herself on record as opposing some of Blagojevich's fee increases. The Republicans have coalesced behind Riverwoods village trustee Paul Tully, a patent attorney, and will fund him lavishly. The Bush-Gore vote was almost even, and Madigan crafted this district to elect a Democrat.

The outlook: A swing to either party in the presidential race will determine the winner. If Bush takes more than 55 percent in this district, Ryg will be swept out. Toss-up.

79th District (Kankakee): Incumbent Democrat Phil Novak, first elected in 1986, may retire in a district which went 52-46 for Al Gore but which was made more Republican in the remap. The outlook: Safe for Novak. Toss-up if he retires.

117th District (Far Downstate: Marion, Benton): The district's most famous citizen is Glenn Poshard, who ran for governor in 1998 and who previously was a congressman and a state senator. The incumbent representative, Democrat Gary Forby, recently was appointed to Democrat Larry Woolard's Senate seat after Woolard got a job in the Blagojevich Administration. Forby won his first term by just 1,194 votes in 2000, while Gore was beating Bush by 49 percent to 47 percent. He was re-elected in 2002 by 9,612 votes (62.7 percent). Marion attorney John Bradley was appointed to replace Forby.

The outlook: The remap made the district more Republican. If 2000 Republican nominee Jack Woolard of West Frankfort (no relation to the former senator) runs again, and if Bush wins big, Bradley could have problems. Leans Democrat.

17th District (Glenview, Wilmette, parts of Skokie): Madigan designed this as a Democratic district and packed it with Jewish voters. His anointed candidate was attorney Michael Ian Bender of Skokie, the son of Judge Gerald Bender. This was supposed to have been north Skokie's seat, but Bender was upset in the primary by Pat Hughes of Wilmette by 116 votes. The Republican incumbent, Elizabeth Coulson, a liberal first elected in 1996, was thought to be toast, with most of her Republican base put into another district.

Hughes worked hard, and he was backed by state Representative Lou Lang (who holds the south Skokie seat) and the Niles Township Democratic Organization, but given a choice between two gentiles, a sizable number of Jewish women opted for the woman in the race, and Coulson won by 666 votes (50.9 percent).

The outlook: Bender is not running again. To beat Coulson in 2004, Democrats must field a female Jewish candidate. None has yet surfaced. Edge to Coulson.

83rd District (Aurora): Madigan packed this new district with Hispanics, and he succeeded in electing Democrat Linda Chapa-LaVia to the seat in 2002. She beat Aurora Alderman Bob O'Connor by 1,503 votes (54.4 percent). O'Connor's not running again. Outlook: Safe for Chapa-LaVia.

63rd District (McHenry): Republican divisions allowed Democrat Jack Franks to win this seat by 138 votes in 1998, which he upped to 1,537 in 2000 and to 11,688 in 2002. That's quite a trajectory, and Franks is now secure. But he has higher ambitions, and he may run for state senator in 2004 or for Congress some time this decade. Outlook for 2004: Safe for Franks. But when he quits, the seat will revert to the Republicans.

And lastly, there's the 20th District (Chicago's Northwest Side), where 33-year Democratic incumbent Ralph Capparelli, who currently represents the adjacent 15th District but who lives in the 20th District, may or may not challenge Republican incumbent Mike McAuliffe, who beat Democratic incumbent Bob Bugielski by 2,583 votes (53.7 percent) in 2002. Madigan designed this district to re-elect Capparelli in 2002, but Capparelli had other ideas. Now it may be too late.

The outlook: Capparelli, with his $900,000-plus campaign account, is the only Democrat who can beat McAuliffe. In an incumbent-versus-incumbent match-up, give McAuliffe a very slight edge. Against anybody but Capparelli, McAuliffe is safe.

The bottom line: Expect a net Republican Illinois House pickup of three seats.