Daily Journal: A look at competitive US House races in the Illinois primary

CHICAGO — Several U.S. House races are expected to be competitive in the Illinois primary, including an open seat, a seat held by a seven-term Democrat facing a challenge from his left and several Republican seats that Democrats hope to flip come November.

Here’s a look at five congressional races in the March 20 primary:


Seven-term Democratic Rep. Daniel Lipinksi faces the most serious primary challenge he’s seen in years. Democrats have often claimed Lipinski — among the most conservative House Democrats — is the wrong fit for the district that covers a stretch of Chicago and southwest suburbs, including working-class communities. More than one-third of residents in the solidly Democratic district are Hispanic. There have been primary attempts to oust Lipinski before, but this time challenger Marie Newman is getting support from some of Lipinski’s own House colleagues.

Newman, a consultant seeking public office for the first time, has been endorsed by Illinois Democratic Reps. Luis Gutierrez and Jan Schakowsky, and New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. The candidate from La Grange also has the backing of women’s groups and feminist icon Gloria Steinem. Newman has focused on Lipinski’s opposition to abortion, votes against the Affordable Care Act and legislation benefiting immigrants brought to the country without legal permission as young children.

The race is also in the spotlight because outspoken Holocaust denier Arthur Jones is running unopposed for the Republican nomination.


Democrats are locked in a three-way primary to elect a potential successor to Rep. Luis Gutierrez, who decided not to seek re-election after 13 terms.

Leading the other candidates in name recognition, endorsements and fundraising is Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, whose unsuccessful bid for Chicago mayor in 2015 forced incumbent Rahm Emanuel into an unprecedented runoff election.

Also running are community activist Sol Flores and longtime Chicago police officer Richard Gonzalez.

Key issues in the race have been immigration, affordable housing, education and crime. The heavily Hispanic and Democratic district covers Mexican, Puerto Rican and Central American swaths of Chicago and several suburbs.

The primary winner will face Republican financial adviser and first-time candidate Mark Lorch, of Riverside.


Democrats have made the suburban Chicago seat held by Republican Rep. Peter Roskam a target in the push to control the House. He is unopposed in the primary, but seven Democrats are seeking a shot to oust him.

The largely white district covers suburbs north and west of Chicago, including several wealthy communities.

Roskam took heat last year from constituents concerned about repealing former President Barack Obama’s health care law, particularly when he canceled a community meeting and declined requests for public town hall forums. Frustration with the situation and President Donald Trump’s policies prompted Democrats to jump in, including a wave of female candidates.

Roskam has been forced to fiercely fundraise, collecting about $2.5 million this cycle.

The Democrats include Kelly Mazeski of Barrington Hills, who’s held municipal office and made an unsuccessful 2016 state Senate bid. She’s out-fundraised her opponents, including attorney Amanda Howland of Lake Zurich, who ran two years ago, Downers Grove scientist Sean Casten and attorney Jennifer Zordani, of Clarendon Hills. Also running are Palatine data analyst Ryan Huffman and two Naperville residents, bookstore owner Becky Anderson Wilkins and attorney Carole Cheney.


Three Republicans are competing for the chance at a November matchup against Democratic Rep. Brad Schneider, who is unchallenged in the primary.

The Chicago-area region includes wealthy and working-class communities along Lake Michigan and is a classic swing district with a large number of Jewish voters. The territory has often flipped from Democrat to Republican over the years, making it a priority for both parties.

Former U.S. Rep. Bob Dold, a Kenilworth Republican, decided not to challenge Schneider to a fourth consecutive matchup, prompting three Republicans to jump into the race where foreign policy and government spending have been campaign issues.

The candidates are Highland Park attorney Jeremy Wynes, who served as a local director for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Libertyville physician Sapan Shah and Deerfield computer consultant, Douglas Bennett, who’s previously sought local offices.


Five Democrats are vying to take on Republican U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis to represent the central Illinois district, which includes much of Springfield and areas to the northeast and southwest, including Decatur and Carlinville.

Davis, who is seeking his fourth term, is unopposed in the GOP primary.

On the Democratic side, Bloomington physician David Gill, who narrowly lost a three-way race to Davis in 2012, is vowing to push a progressive agenda that includes a $15 minimum wage and free college tuition. Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, of Springfield, says she’ll fight to protect affordable health care, inspired by a life-threatening illness that required her son to spend 24 days in a hospital before he recovered.

Leading in fundraising is Erik Jones of Edwardsville, who’s worked as an assistant attorney general and a congressional staffer and says he’d be ready on day one. Jon Ebel is a University of Illinois religion professor and the only military veteran in the race. Also running is teacher Angel Sides of Springfield.