June 9, 2021

"It is what it is," said state Representative Brad Stephens (R-20) regarding the Democrats' state legislative remap, which passed May 31.

Actually, it's a gift for Stephens. Stephens' current district contains Chicago's 41st Ward and close-in suburbs to the west, and his redrawn district kept 70.3 percent of his former district's precincts. Overlaying the 2020 party vote in the new boundaries, Stephens said he would have won 50.5-49.5 percent.

"The lines are not bad," added Stephens, Rosemont's mayor and Leyden Township Republican committeeman. He picked up River Grove, a strip along Mannheim Road and the few Rosemont precincts that were in Kathleen Willis' (D-77) district, plus the 8 Norridge precincts that were in the 19th District. He lost about a dozen precincts in north Park Ridge. The new 20th is 12 percent Hispanic, 4 percent Asian and 0.081 percent Black, according to Stephens.

But the biggest change is that Mike Madigan is gone and Democrats won't be throwing millions at Stephens, as they did in 2020 when he beat Michelle Darbro 28,314-23,546, getting 54.6 percent. Democrats will be too busy defending their marginal seats to focus on Stephens.

Based on pre-2020 demographic data compiled by the American Community Survey (ACS), not 2020 U.S. Census tabulations, the bill redrew legislative, state Supreme Court and county Board of Review lines, but not congressional or Cook County judicial subcircuit lines. That will be done in the October veto session.

The bill was signed by the governor and resets the 2022 primary to June 28 and contains a nifty provision allowing most jailed inmates, either pre-trial detainees or those convicted to vote. The bill also mandates that every prison have a polling place. You must love the Democrats: They let no Democratic vote be unharvested, though their bonanza may be limited since incarceration is down 22 percent nationwide.

The official Census is to be released on Aug. 18, so the provisions of the May 31 bill may have to be revisited in October if their data conflicts with and rebuts ACS data.

There are two repercussions: (1) Illinois primaries have always been in mid-March since the 1970s. And the timetable has always been 90/90, meaning the nominating petition circulation period begins 6 months (180 days) before the scheduled primary and lasts 90 days to the filing deadline, with the primary 90 days later. That meant a September/ December/March sequence. Now it's going to be a December/March/June sequence, with petition-passing starting Dec. 28. A summer primary versus a St. Patrick's Day primary. How this affects turnout is purely speculative.

And (2) the remap bill passed both chambers on straight-party line votes - 71-45 in the House and 41-18 in the Senate. Republicans will file a lawsuit, said Stephens, and that will impact the timeline set forth above.

The Republicans have two options: (1) Appeal it to the 4-3 Democratic state Supreme Court on a technical issue, like lack of contiguity or improper data. Forget it. Or (2) appeal it to the U.S. district court on a federal Constitutional or a Voting Rights Act (VRA) violation, like non-retrogression, which means a majority-minority district cannot be diluted (in other words, made more White).

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that state legislatures can remap along partisan lines. There is no constitutional "doctrine of fairness." It's basically winner-takes-all. Some states have created supposedly non-partisan redistricting commissions. Illinois would never do that. But Republicans do have a hook: 2011 congressional Republican remaps in PA, NC and FL were invalidated and were ordered redrawn due to "egregious disparities" between the congressional delegation makeup and the state's partisan make-up, as reflected in presidential outcomes.

All three states are competitive, close to 50/50. All three had Republican-controlled legislatures, elected in anti-Obama 2010. And they did the remaps in 2011. FL had a 19R-8D congressional delegation, NC 10R-3D and PA 13R-5D. That was deemed "unreflective" by the federal courts in FL and NC, and by the PA Supreme Court.

Biden beat Trump in Illinois with 57.5 percent. The IL congressional delegation is 13D-5R, which is a 72-28 percent split. Illinois lost a seat, and that means one fewer Republican among 17 (13-4), a 76-24 split. That certainly ranks as an "egregious disparity," with Springfield Democrats "packing" every Republican discernable into as few districts as possible.
But the hapless Republicans may have a hook: Pritzker beat Rauner with 54.5 percent in 2018. The state Senate is 41D-18R (or 69 percent Democratic) and the House 73D-45R (or 62 percent Democratic) - percentages somewhat above, but not quite egregiously above, the Pritzker and Biden showings. But while federal courts have no compunction about intervening in congressional elections/redistricting, they have not yet ventured into the realm of state legislative "disparities."

And Democrats also self-protected themselves, floating a remap bill that would have put 22 incumbent House Republicans into 8 districts (with 4 of them in one district), and 8 incumbent Senate Republicans into 3 districts. But that bill was scuttled and a final version put six Republicans into three Downstate districts and one Republican and one Democrat into one Elmhurst-area district. No lawsuit looms.

But a lot of incumbents (D) are disgruntled. They want a district with a VMI (Voter Measurement Index) of 60 percent-plus Democratic vote. That was impossible, since many House Democrats won with under 55 percent in 2020. That threshold is important, as a wave election can boost or cut an incumbent's vote by plus/minus 5 percent. An incumbent who won with under 55 percent is vulnerable. Since 2022 portends to be an anti-Democratic wave year, a lot of legislative Democrats are paranoid.

Not among them is state Representative John D'Amico (D-15), whose Northwest Side district currently includes Sauganash, Mayfair, Forest Glen, part of Albany Park, most of suburban Niles and a slice of Morton Grove. His new VMI is 60 percent, up from 54 percent. The new district shed some south end precincts and moved east into Budlong Woods to the Chicago River and stretches to Peterson-Lincoln. He also took the precincts around Superdawg from Lindsey LaPointe's 19th District. D'Amico had a contested race in 2018, winning with 61.5 percent. In 2020 he was unopposed.

LaPointe should not worry. She lost conservative north end precincts and Norridge, and moved westward from Portage Park to Schorsch Village, around Oak Park and Irving Park in the 38th Ward. She won with 58.4 percent in 2020. Her VMI is now over 60 percent.

Also a bit more certain is state Senator Rob Martwick (D-10), who won with 53.8 percent in a district that contains the 19th and 20th House seats. Loss of precincts from Park Ridge and north Gladstone Park probably added 2-4 points to his VMI.

Martwick will need it in 2022, when he will likely face a second primary from Chicago police sergeant Danny O'Toole and an election rematch from Norridge cop Anthony Beckman (R). The 10th is one of the few Senate districts Republicans could flip, especially if 2022 is a wave year.
COOK COUNTY BOARD: President Toni Preckwinkle (D), despite her disastrous 2019 mayoral runoff loss, is a lock for re-election. (Can we take a moment to say that maybe we all were a little too hard on Toni and her "soda tax?")

The Democrats hold a 15-2 majority among the 17 commissioners, each elected from single-member districts. The board will remap itself this year, and all commissioners must run in 2022. The only retiree thus far is veteran Larry Suffredin (D) from the Evanston-Skokie 13th District, first elected in 2002. It was long presumed that his successor would be his son, Evanston alderman Tom Suffredin. But, according to his dad, he's not running.

The reason may be Josina Morita, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) commissioner from Skokie who announced her candidacy the day after Suffredin retired. Morita is a protŽgŽ of former state Representative Lou Lang, the Niles Township Democratic committeeperson who still has $1 million in "leftover" funds in his legislative account.

Morita is an ally of MWRD commissioner Debra Shore, who sought the job of federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator under Biden-Harris. U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-9), of Evanston and a longtime pal of Nancy Pelosi, lobbied hard for Shore. Instead, the EPA job went to Michael Regan. Morita also backed Shore in two failed bids for MWRD president. Backed by Lang, Schakowsky and Shore, Morita is a cinch.

Commissioner Luis Arroyo Jr., however, is no cinch. Elected from his Northwest Chicago Hispanic majority 8th District in 2018 because of the clout of his father, then-state Representative Luis Arroyo, he may be undone in 2022 by his father's non-clout - and pending 2021 trial on federal bribery charges. Former commissioner Edwin Reyes, who Arroyo defeated in the 2018 primary, is running again. Reyes is a former city cop and protege of 26th Ward alderman Roberto Maldonado, who got ousted as committeeperson last year.

Arroyo may be in trouble.