Voters in the nation’s second earliest primary state, Illinois, go to the polls tomorrow to choose their party nominees for the fall elections. Though Texas already held its primaries on March 4, its nomination process is not yet complete because the run-off contests are scheduled for May 27. Since Illinois has no secondary election procedure, all nominations will be finalized tomorrow.
The most intense race on the ballot is the governor’s campaign, as four Republicans vie for the opportunity to face vulnerable Gov. Pat Quinn, who continues to poll as the nation’s weakest Democratic incumbent.
Businessman Bruce Rauner, spending copious amounts of his own money on television advertising, is leading his three GOP opponents in all polls and poised to claim victory tomorrow night. Three surveys were publicly released in February and March, but the most current We Ask America polling methodology appears skewed. Because their latest survey (released on March 11) does not allow for an undecided response, we must discard the affinity levels apportioned to the various candidates; but the order of finish for the four candidates is likely accurate. According to this WAA data, Rauner places first with 46 percent, followed by state Sen. Kirk Dillard’s 26 percent, and 2010 gubernatorial nominee Bill Brady’s 19 percent, while scandal-tainted state Treasurer Dan Rutherford trails with nine percent.
To obtain a better understanding of the margins, we look at WAA’s poll released February 18. This study gave Rauner a 35-14-13-8 percent over Brady, Dillard, and Rutherford, respectively, and did include an undecided segment. The early February Market Shares Research survey for the Chicago Tribune also projects Rauner leading, in this case 40-20-13-11 percent over Brady, Rutherford, and Dillard, in the listed order.
Though the final public poll appears unreliable, the preponderance of published and private data results suggests that Rauner should win a comfortable victory tomorrow night and will begin the general election against Gov. Quinn with his Republican Party nomination victory speech.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D) is running for a fourth term and will be easily re-nominated against minor Democratic primary opposition. He should also cruise to re-election against presumed Republican nominee Jim Oberweis, a frequent statewide candidate who is now a member of the Illinois state Senate.
In the congressional delegation, all 18 incumbents are seeking re-election and three face primary opponents. The most challenging contest arises in District 13 (Bloomington-Normal-Champaign-Decatur-Springfield), where former Miss America Erika Harold opposes freshman Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville). The 2003 contest winner is attracting support from Davis’ right and has raised better than $300,000 for her campaign, though the figure is less than half the amount the congressman had spent even before March began. Rep. Davis is heavily favored for re-nomination, but Harold’s local celebrity and her ideological base of support suggests that she will score a respectable percentage. On the Democrat side, former Judge Ann Callis is favored over college professor George Gollin in a campaign that has become spirited. A late We Ask America survey of this district posted Callis to a 41-25 percent advantage.
Representatives Luis Gutierrez (D-IL-4) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL-16) also face intra-party challenges, but neither are serious and both incumbents will win easily.
Looking ahead toward the general election, three congressional races are top-tier contests, and a fourth has development potential.
Two Republican former one-term representatives, Bob Dold (R-IL-10) and Bobby Schilling (R-IL-17), will again oppose the individuals who deposed them from office in 2012: representatives Brad Schneider (D-IL-10) and Cheri Bustos (D-IL-17).
With Rep. Davis winning his 2012 election with the lowest percentage of any Republican in the House (46.5 percent), this 13th District November contest promises to be highly competitive. Callis, the party favorite, is Davis’ likely opponent, assuming he successfully claims his own party nomination.
In southwestern Illinois, state Rep. Mike Bost (R) will oppose freshman Congressman Bill Enyart (D-IL-12). The Bost campaign has been slow to develop – raising just under $185,000 by the end of February and already spending all but $46,000, for example – but the nature of the district suggests that an upset is at least possible under a midterm turnout formula.