NOV 08, 2022
Statewide offices, a constitutional amendment, tight Congressional races and the balances of the state Supreme Court and General Assembly up for grabs
Gov. JB Pritzker, left, and Sen. Darren Bailey (R-Xenia), right, campaign in September. [Ben Szalinski/The Daily Line]
Months of speculation, talking points and goals will be decided Tuesday night in races for offices throughout Illinois that have grabbed voters’ attention for positions on key issues, big spending or controversial statements.
Illinois’ midterm election features races for all statewide offices, the first election with new Congressional and General Assembly districts, a pair of hotly contested Supreme Court races and a constitutional amendment. 2022’s races have been filed with debate over key issues ranging from abortion to public safety to gas prices alongside conversations about the role of money in politics and an evaluation of the direction each party is going.
Gov. JB Pritzker hopes to win a second term Tuesday night while Sen. Darren Bailey (R-Xenia) attempts to complete his rise in Illinois politics from a little-known state representative who challenged COVID-19 executive orders to the Illinois Republican Party’s headline candidate.
Bailey launched his campaign in February 2021 with a focus on what he believed to be an abuse of power by Pritzker during the pandemic. Since then, his message has shifted to make crime his main focus by ridiculing Chicago for its violence as well as Democrats for passing the SAFE-T Act. Bailey has also run on social issues such as sex education in school and often times found himself under fire for controversial statements ranging from telling Illinoisians to “move on” after the Highland Park shooting or comparing abortion to the Holocaust.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade at the end of June, Pritzker’s main message has been on abortion as he pledges to protect reproductive rights as governor. Pritzker also hasn’t been shy about talking about his accomplishments ranging from passing budget surpluses after years of deficits, improvements to the state’s overall fiscal health, temporary tax relief, and a state capital plan that has prioritized infrastructure projects and job creation throughout the state. However, Pritzker has taken heat for his support of the SAFE-T Act and has not specifically said how he would amend the law.
Polls throughout the campaign have shown Pritzker holds a healthy lead over Bailey.
Related: Bailey makes final pitch to voters after rising from little-known representative to Republican nominee for governor
Secretary of state race
For the first time in over 20 years, popular Secretary of State Jesse White is not on the ballot, leaving both parties an opportunity to put a new face in the chair of the state’s most public-facing office. For Republicans, it could represent the party’s best shot at winning a statewide race.
Twenty-year House veteran Rep. Dan Brady (R-Bloomington) is running for the nomination against Democrat Alexi Giannoulias who is making his return to state politics for the first time in 12 years. Both candidates pledge to modernize the office and are focused on making it easier for people to access services in a timely manner. Giannoulias has significantly outspent and out-fundraised Brady, however.
Related: The race to replace Jesse White: Long-time GOP Rep. Brady takes on White-endorsed Giannoulias
Supreme Court races
The balance of the Illinois Supreme Court hangs on this election which features contests in the Second and Third Judicial Districts.
In the Second District, which includes Lake, McHenry, DeKalb, Kane and Kendall counties, former Lake County Sheriff and 2020 Republican nominee for U.S. Senate Mark Curran of Libertyville is facing off against Lake County Judge Elizabeth Rochford, a Lake Forest Democrat.
In the Third District, which includes DuPage, Will, Kankakee, Iroquois, Grundy, LaSalle, and Bureau counties, incumbent Republican Supreme Court Justice Michael Burke of Elmhurst is up against Democratic Appellate Court Justice Mary Kay O’Brien of Essex, who is also a former lawmaker.
Like other races, abortion has been a top focus in the race with the Democratic candidates attacking their Republican opponents on the issue. In the Third District, O’Brien has even run ads claiming Burke has said he would rule against cases on abortion, though she has not cited the source of Burke’s statements. Judicial candidates are prohibited from committing to rule one way on an issue that might come before the court.
The race has also become expensive and is the most expensive judicial race in the country. In addition to money given directly to each candidate, independent expenditure committees on both sides of the aisle have received large contributions that have helped finance ads in the race.
One of the two Democratic candidates needs to win in order for the party to preserve the 4-3 Democratic majority on the court. If both Republicans win, the Illinois Supreme Court’s balance will shift to a 4-3 Republican majority.
Related: Abortion, TV commercials and experience top issues in races for state Supreme Court seats
Amendment 1 (Workers Rights Amendment)
For the second consecutive election, Illinois voters will decide whether to add an amendment to the Illinois Constitution, this time on union rights.
The proposed amendment states, “employees shall have the fundamental right to organize and to bargain collectively” on negotiations including “wages, hours and working conditions, and to protect their economic welfare and safety at work.” If passed, it would prevent Illinois from becoming a right-to-work state.
Supporters of the amendment argue it’s necessary to preserve unions’ ability to bargain. Opponents to the amendment argue it will lead to property tax increases if public sector union negotiations require higher costs for units of government. They also fear it will allow union bargaining power to supersede state law.
Related: Amendment to enshrine collective bargaining rights into constitution met with union support and strong pushback
Illinois has a number of competitive congressional races as Republicans are looking to take back control of Congress from the Democrats’ slim majority in the U.S. House and Senate.
The 17th Congressional District, which includes Rockford, the Quad Cities, Macomb, Peoria and Normal, is Illinois’ most competitive toss up race. Republican Esther Joy King, who narrowly lost to retiring U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) in 2020, is facing off against former TV meteorologist Eric Sorensen. The new boundaries of the district swung in former President Donald Trump’s favor by less than two points in 2016 and 2020, but Pritzker won the district’s boundaries by less than 1 point in 2018, according to Illinois Election Data.
Three congressional races in the suburbs have also gained attention in recent days. U.S. Rep. Sean Casten (D-Ill.) in the 6th Congressional District received support from President Joe Biden last week while his Republican opponent, Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau, had House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy in town Friday.
Biden also lent his support to U.S. Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.) in the 11th Congressional District in his race against Woodstock Republican Catalina Lauf and U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.) in the 14th Congressional District in her race against Republican Kendall County Board Chair Scott Gryder while he was in the suburbs. Both races have been rated as toss ups or “leans Democrat” by political publications.
Related: Tight Congressional races attract attention from top D.C. leaders
Downstate, former top Pritzker and Biden aid Nikki Budzinski faces Decatur Republican Regan Deering in the 13th District. The snake-like district that stretches from Champaign to East St. Louis compacts Democratic votes, but has still been viewed as a competitive race amid Republican hopes to take back the House majority.
The Senate Republicans have focused spending on three races as they look to chip away at the Democrats’ super majority in the Senate. The caucus has spent money pushing for Rock Island Mayor Mike Thoms in the 36th Senate District against Rep. Mike Halpin (R-Rock Island), Rep. Sandy Hamilton (R-Springfield) who is trying to defeat Sen. Doris Turner (D-Springfield) in the 48th Senate District, and Erica Harriss of Glen Carbon who is challenging Sen. Kris Tharp (D-Bethalto) in the 56th Senate District.
The race between Turner and Hamilton has become one of the most expensive in the state as candidates trade blows with each other on TV ads. Turner has sought to paint Hamilton as an anti-abortion extremist while Hamilton has produced ads detailing Turner’s past run-ins with corruption cases. Both candidates were appointed to their seats and are running for office for the first time.
Republicans are also eyeing Sen. Michael Hastings’ (D-Frankfort) 19th Senate District seat. Hastings has been wrapped up in allegations of bullying in the work place and domestic violence at home. Pritzker has asked Hastings to resign his seat. Hastings is up against Plainfield police officer Patrick Sheehan.
The House Republicans have put up over 100 candidates in races for 118 House districts around the state as they attempt to take down the Democrats’ super majority in the House. Democrats currently hold 73 seats, meaning Republicans would need to pick up at least four to take away their super majority power.
The most competitive districts this year lie in the suburbs, which have shifted more to the left in recent years. But Republicans are hoping a national wave of Republican momentum helps them protect and pick up seats. Republicans are mounting attempts in the 41st House District with Richard Janor to oust Rep. Janet Yang Rohr (D-Naperville), 42nd District with Stephanie Hood to oust Rep. Terra Costa Howard (D-Glen Ellyn) and 66th House District with Connie Cain to oust Rep. Suzanne Ness (D-Crystal Lake) among other races.
Both parties are hoping to win open seats in the 48th House District with Jennifer Sanalitro up against Democrat Azam Nizamuddin, 62nd House District with Adam Shores up against Democrat Laura Faver Dias and 91st House District with Scott Preston up against Democrat Sharon Chung. Democrats are looking at picking up seats from the Republicans in the 51st House District with Nabeela Syed challenging Rep. Chris Bos (R-Crystal Lake) and Matt Hansen challenging Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) in the 83rd House District.
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