Illinois congressional races take shape

December 28, 2011

By The Associated Press and Alex Keefe

(AP/file)

Illinois' 2012 congressional elections are beginning to shape up after dozens of candidates officially filed to run by a Tuesday afternoon deadline.

Seventy-eight people are running for Illinois' 18 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Illinois Democrats have taken advantage of the once-in-a-decade process of redrawing congressional boundaries to try and make things harder on Republicans next year. And for some GOP candidates, it will be.

Two incumbent Republicans - Reps. Adam Kinzinger and Don Manzullo - are being forced into a primary in the 16th Congressional District, which covers much of north-central Illinois. In Chicago's northwest suburbs, outspoken Tea Party Republican Joe Walsh has chosen to run in his current 8th district in order to avoid facing fellow GOP Congressman Randy Hultgren in the 14th. Hultgren is running unopposed in the March 20 Republican primary, but Walsh still must survive the contest against two other candidates.

On the Democratic side, long-time incumbent Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. is being forced into a primary against former Rep. Debbie Halvorson. The primary in Illinois' 8th district will likely be another closely watched race. Iraq war veteran and former Obama administration official Tammy Duckworth is facing off against Raja Krishnamoorthi, in a newly redrawn district that's more favorable to Democrats.

Candidates have until next week to object to their opponents' nominating papers.

National Democratic officials have repeatedly described Illinois as a "center of gravity" in the Democrats' efforts to reclaim the House majority. But Republicans say they're in a good position to keep their majority delegation, and that Democratic leadership in the state is out of touch. They see an opportunity to grab the state's only open congressional seat in southern Illinois following the sudden retirement of a longtime Democrat, Rep. Jerry Costello.

Democrats may have an advantage with the new map, which cuts down the number of districts by one, preserves existing Democratic-leaning districts, creates new ones and pits several Republican incumbents against each other. All but one of the state's Republican congressmen sued to overturn the map, which Democrats crafted because they control the state Legislature and governor's office.

Even federal judges who upheld the map's legality acknowledged that it was a "blatant political move to increase the number of Democratic congressional seats."