By Jim EllisMarch 18, 2020 — In a night that was originally scheduled to have two full state primaries and two stand-alone presidential contests that would determine if a Democratic candidate could reach majority support on the first ballot, last night’s results proved somewhat anticlimactic.
Voters in Arizona, Florida, and Illinois cast their ballots, with only the latter state conducting its full primary. Ohio, which also had its statewide primary scheduled for yesterday, postponed their vote likely to June 2 because of COVID-19 virus precaution.
As expected, former vice president Joe Biden wrapped up three easy victories, beginning with capturing the Florida primary with a whopping 62-23 percent margin over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) from a Democratic electorate that topped 1.72 million voters. The total includes the early votes, even though the outcome of this stand-alone primary election became a foregone conclusion just after Super Tuesday.
The vote totals were somewhat closer in Illinois, but still a landslide victory for Biden. The former vice president captured 59 percent of the Land of Lincoln Democratic vote as compared to 36 percent for Sen. Sanders. The turnout here was just slightly over 1.5 million, but the entire statewide and district office campaigns were also on this ballot, which helps accounts for what appears to be a fairly large turnout.
In Arizona, the race was much closer, as Biden’s victory margin rather surprisingly dropped to 44-31 percent with approximately 12 percent of the ballots outstanding. The turnout is not expected to reach 600,000 when all the ballots are counted. A quarter of the Arizona electorate voted for one of the also-ran candidates, which compares to 15 percent doing so in Florida and just five percent in Illinois.
Delegate wise, Biden looks to have captured about 159 Florida delegate votes with Sen. Sanders only clinching 60 bound first ballot delegates. The Illinois total projects a 95-60 Biden advantage, while in Arizona the total split looks to be approximately 39-28 if the present pattern continues. Without the Ohio primary taking place, the total delegate universe yesterday was 441, with Biden unofficially clinching 293 of them, or 66 percent of the March 17 bound first-ballot votes.
The bigger story of the night, however, is Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Western Springs), who found himself winning a tight 2018 primary contest against media consultant Marie Newman, falling in the re-match. The result is a bit surprising in that Rep. Lipinski was thought have a better set-up in this election because of the presence of a third candidate, community activist Rush Darwish, who was expected to attract more than the six percent of the vote that he secured.
Numbers-wise, Newman looks to have won an unofficial 47-45 percent victory percentage, a raw vote spread of 2,365 votes with almost all the ballots tabulated. Lipinski was one of the few moderate Democrats in the House and, after barely surviving two years ago to newcomer Newman, he lost this year despite being better prepared. Newman, who became a national progressive left candidate, raised almost $1.7 million through the Feb. 26 pre-primary report. Rep. Lipinski also attracted and spent a sizable sum, just under $1.3 million for the same period.
It appears this primary election ends what will be the 16-year congressional career of the Chicago area congressman who succeeded his father in the 2004 election. Bill Lipinski served in the House for 11 terms, after being a member of the Chicago City Council for eight years.
Elsewhere in the state, rancher Mary Miller in a Republican race where only she broke the $300,000 mark in raised funds, topped three other GOP candidates in the 15th Congressional District. She scored an impressive 57.5 percent of the vote to capture the party nomination to succeed retiring Rep. John Shimkus (R-Collinsville).
The 15th CD begins in the area surrounding the city of Champaign and then runs down the Indiana border all the way to Kentucky, before bouncing back across the state to the St. Louis suburbs. It is the safest Republican seat in the state (Trump ’16: 71 percent). This result means that Mattoon School Board member Erika Weaver, who topped 51 percent in the Democratic primary against three opponents, will be a decided underdog to Miller in the general election.
In the US Senate election, Sen. Dick Durbin, who was unopposed in the Democratic primary, will face a challenge from former Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran, who won the Republican primary. Sen. Durbin is a prohibitive favorite to win a fifth term in November.
Six other Democratic members faced primary opposition, and all were re-nominated with percentages ranging from 85 to 59 percent. All of the Republican incumbents seeking re-election were unopposed last night.
In what are expected to be competitive challenger races, former state representative and gubernatorial candidate Jeanne Ives easily captured the GOP nomination to challenge freshman Rep. Sean Casten (D-Downers Grove) in the 6th District. In the competitive 14th CD, freshman Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Naperville) draws frequent candidate Jim Oberweis, a state senator, who has run unsuccessfully for several statewide offices. Oberweis topped a field of seven Republican candidates with slightly more than a quarter of the vote. The pairing now distinctly favors Rep. Underwood in a political situation that could have yielded a toss-up campaign.