Sept. 14, 2015 — The last US House vacancy was officially filled last night when Illinois state Sen. Darin LaHood (R) easily won the special election in the Peoria-anchored district left vacant when then-Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL-18) resigned over improper expenses.
LaHood, the son of former representative and US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, had an easy run from the beginning of the special election cycle. With no strong opponents filing in either the Republican primary or for the general election, the Peoria state senator’s pre-candidate filing operation positioned him as a consensus candidate virtually from the beginning.
LaHood garnered 69 percent of the vote against educator Rob Mellon (D), sweeping an 18th District that travels around and among the cities of Peoria, Springfield, and Normal before encompassing the rural region to the Missouri border.
The final turnout of 50,747 voters is a little more than half the average total of what we generally see for a special congressional election. The fact that this low-key campaign produced virtually no competition left no doubt about the final conclusion, hence the low voter participation rate.
July 31, 2015 –Public Policy Polling surveyed the Illinois electorate (July 20-21; 931 registered Illinois voters; 409 likely Illinois Democratic primary voters; 369 likely Illinois Republican primary voters) and found each party spinning the Senate numbers very differently.
According to the data, Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL-8) scores a 42-36 percent edge over incumbent Sen. Mark Kirk (R). Democrats obviously are claiming that Kirk is one of the weakest of GOP senators standing for election next year since their challenger already holds an outright lead. The data indicates that Duckworth and the Democrats are taking advantage of a series of gaffes that the first-term incumbent recently uttered. Republicans, on the other hand, point to the fact that Kirk is only six points down. They argue that his negatives from the controversial statements will only have a short-term effect.
Kirk also finds himself in upside-down job approval territory, notching a poor 25:42 percent favorable to unfavorable ratio. Rep. Duckworth, on the other hand, records a 34:23 percent positive score. Though the non-responding/refused to answer factor (43 percent) is high for the Duckworth question, her total name identification is strong for a lone House member in a large population state.