illinois Digital News

Casten declares victory in 6th; Davis concedes in 15th


An incumbent vs. incumbent congressional primary in the western suburbs saw Rep. Sean Casten declared the winner over his Democratic counterpart, Rep. Marie Newman.

A similar intraparty battle Downstate, in which former President Donald Trump played a central role, saw Rep. Rodney Davis concede to far right Republican Rep. Mary Miller.

Another major race was the Republican primary to determine who will face Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth in November. There, Kathy Salvi, a Mundelein attorney, was leading the seven-candidate field with about half of precincts reporting.

In his statement of victory, Casten vowed to keep the 6th District, which covers parts of the west and southwest suburbs, in Democratic hands.

“Tonight, the people of the 6th District sent a resounding message,” he said. “We have been given a mandate to continue our fight against the climate crisis, to end gun violence, to lower costs for families and to protect every woman’s right to make her own health care decisions.”

At her watch party, Newman asked her supporters for unity “because the Democratic party needs you, and we all need to be together, and we need to be united.”

Their primary had been set in motion by Democratic mapmakers after Illinois’ stagnant population cost the state a congressional seat. Casten, a moderate from Downers Grove, was pitted against the progressive Newman, a La Grange resident who represents the 3rd District.

After that was reshuffled into a “lean Latino” district, Newman chose to take on Casten. Though representatives are not required to live in the district they represent, Newman’s campaign said she would move into the 6th District if she won.

The race grew heated despite a lack of substantial policy differences, with the candidates pointing at their opponents’ alleged ethical lapses. Casten faces a Federal Election Commission inquiry into finance issues from his 2018 campaign, while Newman is the subject of a congressional probe into allegations she offered a staff job to a potential opponent to keep him off the 2020 ballot.

But the race took a dramatic turn two weeks ago, when Casten’s 17-year-old daughter Gwen died suddenly at home (the DuPage County coroner has yet to release a cause or manner of death). The ferocious campaigning paused, though each candidate was active on social media in the week before the election.

Charles Hughes, a former precinct worker for Bill Lipinski in the Garfield Ridge neighborhood west of Midway, was also in the race, though he garnered only a tiny portion of the vote Tuesday.

In the 6th District’s Republican primary, Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau led a six-candidate field with 46% of the vote as of press time.

Another insular battle played out in the 15th District, which remapping shifted from the southeastern part of the state to a central and western slice of Illinois. When Miller, a congressional freshman, saw her Oakland home narrowly drawn into a district with another Republican, U.S. Rep. Mike Bost of Murphysboro, she decided to challenge Davis, a five-term incumbent from Taylorville.

Miller is on the far right wing of the party, and from the start of her term has made remarks critics regard as proof of her extremism, though she has called them misunderstandings or misstatements.

Just days after taking office, she faced demands for her resignation after saying in a speech that “Hitler was right on one thing: He said, ‘Whoever has the youth has the future.’ ”

She apologized and accused critics of “trying to intentionally twist my words to mean something antithetical to my beliefs.”

Last week, at a rally with Trump in Mendon, Illinois, Miller called the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade a “historic victory for white life.”

Her campaign said she meant to say “right to life” and complained about being persecuted by “the fake news vultures.”

While Miller flexed her Trump endorsement and battered her opponent as a supposed RINO — Republican in name only — Davis noted he was one of four co-chairs of Trump’s presidential reelection bid and was among the Republicans who helped write Trump’s tax cut legislation in 2017, which Davis wants to make permanent.

He portrayed himself during the campaign as someone who can get things done, pointing to his work as a senior GOP member of the House Agriculture Committee. He noted his seniority would make him the next chairman of the House Administration Committee.

Miller will face Democrat Paul Lange in the fall, though a GOP victory seems assured given that the district is 67% Republican.

Another bruising race came in the Republican primary for Illinois’ junior seat in the U.S. Senate.

Salvi has been the establishment’s choice, staking out traditional party positions, raising the most money and winning the endorsement of a number of Republican organizations.

She holds conservative views such as opposition to abortion and support for a wall along the country’s southern border. In a candidate forum with the Daily Herald, she did not directly answer when asked if the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

Three of her primary opponents — Geneva financial planner Bobby Piton, Belleville ex-cop Peggy Hubbard and Jimmy Lee Tillman II, son of former Chicago Ald. Dorothy Tillman — had no such hesitation, repeating the false election theft claim during their campaigns.

The winner will likely face a tough race against Duckworth, who did not have a primary opponent. She had more than $7 million of campaign funds available as of March 31 and plenty of statewide name recognition.

In the 8th District, which stretches through Chicago’s Northwest suburbs, three-term Democratic incumbent Raja Krishnamoorthi was declared the winner over his lone opponent Junaid Ahmed.

Ahmed, a small technology business owner and consultant from South Barrington, had accused Krishnamoorthi of becoming beholden to special interests and political action committees. Krishnamoorthi said he has challenged special interests and touted endorsements from stalwart Democratic allies such as Planned Parenthood and the Sierra Club.

The race flared recently when Krishnamoorthi criticized Ahmed for tweeting in support of a protest that included the chants, “Nazis out, Raja must go,” and “Krishnamoorthi, murdabad” — an Urdu or Hindi word Krishnamoorthi said means “death to.”

Though two University of Chicago professors who teach Hindi said the word is a figure of speech used frequently in Indian politics, Ahmed said he had not been aware of the chant and condemned such language.

On the Republican side of the 8th District, retired Naval officer Chris Dargis was leading four other candidates with 33% of the vote.

Political mapmakers reoriented the 14th District from the far northwest suburbs to the western exurbs and rural areas beyond, but incumbent Rep. Lauren Underwood still drew no challenger in the Democratic primary.

Kendall County board member Scott Gryder appeared on track to be Underwood’s Republican opponent in November, leading a five-candidate pack with 31% of the vote.

In the 11th District, a west suburban enclave that added a chunk of McHenry County in redistricting, incumbent Rep. Bill Foster, a Democrat, faced no primary opposition.

A field of six Republicans battled it out to replace him in November, and with 25% of precincts reporting Tuesday, Catalina Lauf, a former U.S. Commerce Department adviser under Trump, was in front with 30% of the vote.

Twitter @JohnKeilman

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