What to Look For in Illinois Congressional Primary Elections (1)

(Updated first three paragraphs to reflect cancellation of in-person voting in Ohio)

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The coronavirus pandemic will limit in-person voter participation in Illinois, the only state holding congressional primary elections Tuesday.

Illinois election officials last week encouraged voters to cast ballots early or by mail. Illinois is also holding a presidential primary along with Arizona and Florida.

Ohio also planned presidential and congressional primaries on Tuesday, but in-person voting was delayed until June 2. At the recommendation of Gov. Mike DeWine (R) and state election officials, Ohio’s health director late Monday ordered election polls closed in a public health emergency. The Ohio Supreme Court early Tuesday rejected a legal challenge to delaying the primary.

Headlining the congressional races is whether one of the few anti-abortion Democrats in Congress can survive a rematch against the more liberal challenger who almost unseated him in 2018. Eight-term Rep. Dan Lipinski , a member of the Blue Dog Coalition of Democrats who emphasize fiscal restraint, is opposed by Marie Newman, who lost 51%-49% to Lipinski two years ago in the Chicago-area 3rd District.

Here’s a look at all the races to watch in Illinois:

Senate: Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, is unopposed in the primary and will be heavily favored in strongly Democratic Illinois — which Hillary Clinton won 56%-39% in 2016 — to defeat the winner of a five-candidate Republican primary.

3rd District (parts of Chicago and suburbs; Clinton 55%-40%): While Lipinski and Newman disagree on abortion, health care has emerged as a bigger issue during the campaign. Lipinski has criticized Newman’s support for a “Medicare for All” government-run health-care system as unworkable. A Lipinski ad said he’s working to lower prescription drug prices while Newman “backs an extreme plan to eliminate private health insurance.”

Newman’s backers include Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and EMILY’s List, which aids Democratic women who support abortion rights. Newman’s TV ads have noted Lipinski’s vote against the Affordable Care Act.

Unlike the 2018 primary, which was a 1-on-1 race, this year’s primary is a four-candidate contest that includes Rush Darwish, a Palestinian-American businessman who’s had success in fundraising. Darwish has accused Newman of adopting progressive positions on health care to further her political ambitions. An anti-Lipinski vote spread out over multiple candidates could help the incumbent win again, perhaps with a plurality of the vote.

In the 2018 primary, 51% of the 3rd District primary vote came out of suburban Cook County, where Newman won narrowly, and 42% came from Chicago, where Lipinski won more decisively. The rest of the vote comes from suburban DuPage and Will Counties.

6th District (Chicago suburbs; Clinton 50%-43%): Republicans Jeanne Ives and Jay Kinzler are seeking to oppose Rep. Sean Casten (D), who unseated Peter Roskam (R) in 2018 in a district that’s been drifting away from the Republicans. Ives, a former state legislator and Army veteran who challenged the incumbent Republican governor in the 2018 primary, has raised more than five times as much in campaign funds as Kinzler and is backed by some Republican members of the Illinois congressional delegation.

13th District (Champaign, Decatur, most of Springfield; Trump 50%-44%): Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, a businesswoman and former congressional aide, should advance to a rematch with four-term Rep. Rodney Davis (R), the ranking member of the Committee on House Administration. Davis won their 2018 contest by less than 1 percentage point.

14th District (Chicago suburbs; Trump 49%-45%): Seven Republicans are vying to oppose first-term Rep. Lauren Underwood (D), who unseated Republican Randy Hultgren in 2018.

They include Jim Oberweis, a state senator and wealthy dairy executive who’s waged previous unsuccessful bids for federal office. Illinois Conservative PAC, a super political action committee that formed in early March, aired ads attacking Oberweis’ conservative credentials. The super PAC hasn’t yet disclosed its donors.

State Sen. Sue Rezin’s supporters include Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.); Value in Electing Women PAC, which advocates for more Republican women in Congress; and the Republican Main Street Partnership PAC, which says it represents the “governing wing” of the Republican Party.

Ted Gradel, a businessman who was a college football kicker at Notre Dame, aired a TV ad that showed him kicking footballs as he advocated for term limits and tax cuts.

Underwood, who has a background in health care, has been a high-profile advocate of protecting and strengthening the ACA.

15th District (Danville, Charleston, Mattoon; Trump 71%-25%): The winner of a four-candidate Republican primary will be a shoo-in in November to succeed retiring Rep. John Shimkus (R). The top candidates probably are Mary Miller, a farmer and educator, and Darren Duncan, the treasurer of Vermilion County in Danville.

Miller is the preferred candidate of the House Freedom Fund, which is the political arm of the strongly conservative House Freedom Caucus, and of Reps. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), who are helping lead the Republican Party’s efforts to elect more women to Congress. In one TV ad, Miller said she was running in part to “put an end to godless socialism.” Duncan’s platform includes opposition to abortion and gun control and support for Trump’s border wall.

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Giroux in Washington at ggiroux@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Bennett Roth at broth@bgov.com; Kyle Trygstad at ktrygstad@bgov.com

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