Illinois Primary Today: What to Watch

Photograph by David Scull/Bloomberg

Miss America Erika Harold speaks at Madison Square Garden, the site of the Republican National Convention in New York, in this August 31, 2004 file photo.

Today’s congressional primaries in Illinois will serve to ratify long-anticipated November matchups in some competitive districts more than they will litigate intraparty battles.

The Nov. 4 election will test the strength of a Democratic gerrymander that delivered the party 12 of the state’s 18 districts as President Barack Obama carried his home state with ease. Democrats won’t have the advantage of Obama’s coattails in November.

Democrats will be looking to defend the gains they made in 2012 while competing for one Republican-held district, the 13th District in and around Champaign, Decatur and most of Springfield (map). Both parties have primaries there tomorrow.

Republican freshman Rep. Rodney Davis is opposed by Erika Harold, a black Harvard-educated lawyer and former Miss America. Davis’s actions and fundraising advantage don’t point to a close race. His most recent television ad ignores Harold and instead mentions his upbringing while emphasizing the need to “repeal and replace Obamacare.”

Davis’s ads have run 222 times compared to 23 for Harold in the past month, according to Kantar Media’s CMAG, which tracks advertising. Harold, who raised $250,000 to Davis’s $1.8 million through Feb. 26, emphasizes a theme of “we can do better” in Congress without mentioning Davis in her ad.

In the Democratic primary, Ann Callis, a former judge and an early recruit of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, is opposed by George Gollin, a physics professor who’s running to Callis’s left on Social Security and Medicare protections. Callis’s spots tout her support for military veterans and endorsements by Sen. Dick Durbin and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

Davis won the November 2012 election by 0.34 percentage point, the third-smallest margin in any House race that year. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates the rate as Lean Republican.

Here’s a look at some other Illinois districts worth watching through November:

10th District (parts of Lake and Cook Counties north of Chicago; map). Democratic Rep. Brad Schneider and Republican ex-Rep. Bob Dold are headed for a rematch of a 2012 race that Schneider won by 2 percentage points. Obama prevailed by about 17 points, so Dold has crossover appeal. Schneider and Dold already together raised about $3 million for the 2014 election through Feb. 26. Illinois’s 10th is the only district in the state that the nonpartisan Cook Political Report presently rates as a tossup.

11th District (most of Aurora, Joliet and Naperville; map). Democratic Rep. Bill Foster awaits the winner of a four-candidate Republican primary that includes state Rep. Darlene Senger and businessman Bert Miller. Senger’s backers include Illinois Reps. Peter Roskam, Aaron Schock and John Shimkus and some House Republican women.

12th District (Belleville, Carbondale, East St. Louis; map). Democratic Rep. Bill Enyart, seeking a second term, will be opposed by Republican state Rep. Mike Bost in a “downstate” district that’s ancestrally Democratic though culturally conservative.

17th District (Rock Island and most of Rockford and Peoria; map). There will be a rematch between Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos and Republican ex-Rep. Bobby Schilling, whom she unseated in 2012 by 6 points after the northwestern district’s boundaries were revised.

Senate. State Sen. Jim Oberweis, a wealthy dairy executive who’s made some unsuccessful runs for Congress, and Doug Truax are seeking the Republican nomination to oppose Durbin, the second-ranking Senate Democrat who’s strongly favored to win a fourth term in November.

Polls close at 7 p.m EDT. Illinois time, or 8 p.m. Washington time.

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