Illinois Primary Preview

The 2010 primary season kicks off on Tuesday in Illinois. In 2008, the state moved its presidential primary to the new super-early “Super Tuesday,” and also moved its regular primaries, which used to be in March, up as well. They haven’t been moved back for the midterm elections, so Illinois gets play New Hampshire and host the “first-in-the-nation” primaries this year. (For a complete, sortable calendar of 2010 primaries, click here.) Below is a roundup of some of the key races to watch for:

  • IL-Sen (D): Democrats have a three-way race to nominate a successor to Barack Obama (well, technically, to Roland Burris’s mausoleum). State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias leads in the polls, but his numbers are only in the 30s. It’s possible that a late surge by former Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman (or, somewhat less likely, Chicago Urban League President Cheryle Jackson) could up-end this race. Giannoulias is getting pounded for his family’s involvement in a failed bank – a particularly toxic piece of baggage in this environment. A recent Rasmussen poll had him up 31-23 over Hoffman (Jackson was back at 13), so an upset is within the realm of possibility.
  • IL-Sen (R): The Republican contest is, sadly, much less interesting. “Moderate” Rep. Mark Kirk compiled a voting record over the years which ought to enrage any full-blooded teabagger, but he successfully pirouetted to his right during the primary. This seems to have kept real estate developer and wingnut Patrick Hughes from gaining any traction – polls show Kirk cruising. The real question at this point is whether Kirk’s rightward shift will come back to haunt him in the general.
  • IL-Gov (D): Last summer, when state Comptroller Dan Hynes decided to challenge incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn in the primary, it seemed like a weird choice. Quinn had just ascended to office in the wake of Rod Blagojevich’s impeachment and seemed pretty popular. And as the year chugged along, polls kept showing Quinn with healthy leads. But Hynes turned the volume way up over the last couple of months, going sharply negative on Quinn on a range of issues, including crime. Now polls have the race a tossup, though Hynes is almost certainly peaking at the right time and could very well knock off a sitting governor. That’ll be one hell of a long lame-duck period. Ouch.
  • IL-Gov (R): The GOP nomination is truly up for grabs – at least four guys probably have a legit shot at the nod (take a look at the crazy graph). Former state AG Jim Ryan was the early favorite, but he seemed to be relying heavily on name recognition. That’s given former state GOP chair Andy McKenna a chance to raise his profile via a massive TV ad campaign, and it looks like he may have the late mo’. Kirk Dillard and Billy Brady probably have a chance to sneak through as well.
  • IL-08 (R): Six different Republicans are vying to challenge Dem Rep. Melissa Bean. Despite the seemingly favorable environment for GOPers, no one of any stature wound up getting into this race, probably because of how handily Bean dispatched well-funded opponents in both 2006 and 2008. With any luck, this won’t be a race to watch come November.
  • IL-10 (D): Mark Kirk’s swingy suburban Chicago district is the only open seat in Illinois this cycle (so far), and it’s attracted a lot of interest on both sides. Marketing consultant Dan Seals, the Dem nominee in 2006 and 2008, has the edge in name rec, but he lost to Kirk twice, in back-to-back strong Dem cycles. Rep. Julie Hamos might therefore have an opening, if 10th District Dems want to give a new face a shot. In a possible sign of Seals fatigue, Hamos has outraised him 2-to-1 (a mil to about half a mil). Still, the only released poll of this race was a Seals internal which gave him a 50-point lead. Don’t scoff: He won his last primary, against the well-funded Jay Footlik, by about 60 points.
  • IL-10 (R): The race to be the next Mark Kirk has come down to state Rep. Beth Coulson, businessman Bob Dold and another businessman, Dick Green. (I love that super-vague epithet, “businessman.”) Coulson’s moderate profile seemed to make her a good fit to inherit Kirk’s mantle, but Dold has raised a lot of money and seems to be exciting conservatives. Green has also spent a lot, but it’s mostly been his own campaign cash. There haven’t been any polls of this race, so to me the question is whether Coulson will get Scozzafava’ed, or will Green and Dold split the winger vote and let her escape? We’ll see soon enough.
  • IL-11 (R): Iraq veteran Adam Kinzinger was annointed by the establishment early on as the favorite to take on freshmen Dem Rep. Debbie Halvorson, and that predictably means outsider conservatives have been gunning for him. Still, his opponents in the primary are a joke – Kinzinger’s raised some $400K, his nearest competitor, $1K. I’ll be curious about his final tally at the polls, though, just to see how warmly (or coldly) the teabaggers really do feel about him.
  • IL-14 (R): The Republicans are hard at work smashing each other on the head in the battle to take on Dem Rep. Bill Foster. Foster, as you’ll recall, snatched this seat in a special election two years ago. It was held by none other than former Republican Speaker of the House Denny Haster, whose son Ethan is one of two contenders trying to win this district back for the GOP. The other is state Sen. Randy Hultgren, who is more or less running as “not-Hastert” (several other candidates dropped out in favor of Hultgren so that the anti-Hastert vote would not get split). The campaign has turned extremely nasty: Hultgren was recently forced to launch an apologetic robocall after he sent out a mailer accusing Hastert of supporting human trafficking. Dems are hoping for a repeat of 2008, where a vicious GOP primary ultimately helped Foster at the polls. (This year, though, there’s a lot more time for wounds to heal before the general.)

There are, of course, plenty of other primaries at all levels taking place in Illinois on Tuesday. If you know of any other interesting races, please let us know in comments.

56 thoughts on “Illinois Primary Preview”

  1. I feel as though the worst possible permutation for us is Seals vs Coulson – if that is the matchup, I think the R’s have a great shot at a retention.  

    If Coulson goes down, or if Hamos wins, their odds drop quite a bit, and the D’s have a better shot at a pickup.  

  2. is another race I’m watching, at least on the Democratic side. Cook County with Chicago and its suburbs – at 5 million residents – is the second largest county only to Los Angeles; 43% of Illinois lives in it.

    There are 4 candidates; the incumbent Todd Stroger is thoroughly despised all around, with an approval rating last seen in the tweens – he came into office under questionable circumstances – his father won the Democratic primary and then passed away suddenly; Todd was appointed onto the ballot by party leaders. He also pushed through a highly unpopular sales tax increase, which leaves the sales tax in suburban Cook at 10% and at 10.25% in the city; he’s also vetoed at least twice attempts to repeal the sales tax hike.

    Dorothy Brown is the Cook County Circuit Court Clerk (alliteration much?) who’s come under fire recently for various practices she instituted in her office. Toni Preckwinkle is the alderman from the 4th ward (Hyde Park, Kenwood) of Chicago and a close ally of President Obama who sometimes spars with Mayor Daley. Stronger, Brown, and Preckwinkle are all African-American; there is one white candidate, Terrence O’Brien, who was Chairman of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (the what?), that apparently has jurisdiction over 98% of county residents.

    Stroger’s been lagging in the polls consistently, while Brown was doing well and Preckwinkle has been surging. I’m guessing Preckwinkle will win, trailed closely behind by Brown, with O’Brien third and Stroger a distant fourth.

    It’ll be interesting to see how the sizable black vote in the Democratic primary breaks down. Anecdotally, at least in majority-black West Evanston, literally every yard on the block I walked down had a Dorothy Brown sign.

    A lot of ‘lakefront liberals’ are supporting Preckwinkle, and I think she’ll do well in the high-income Democratic areas of the county like the North Shore as well as her base in the 4th ward – she has that Obama-esque post-racial appeal going for her. Terry O’Brien, seems to me extraordinarily stiff and uncharismatic, but his tenure on the MWRD hasn’t been controversial and he should do well on the Southwest and Northwest Sides – areas with many working-class whites. I’m guessing Stroger and Brown will split the votes on the South and West sides.

    The only questionable areas, it seems to me, is how the more Republican-leaning Northwest Suburbs will vote. Illinois has an open primary, so it’s not inconceivable that Republicans will cross over to vote out Stroger.

  3. The only really bad scenario is Coulson winning.  If either Dold or Green wins the primary and the general at least we can be amused by their names…

  4. Lt. Governor:

    On the Democratic side, State Senator Art Turner received the endorsement of both of the major Chicago papers. There are a lot of other candidates with the biggest probably being State Senator Terry Link.

    For the Republicans, the Tribune endorsed State Senator Matt Murphy while the Sun Times picked Carbondale mayor Brad Cole. This primary also has a lot of other “some guy” type candidates.


    The front runner for the Democratic nod is Raja Krishnamoorthi who is also in the running for hardest to pronounce candidate name this cycle. He has the endorsement of both the Chicago papers. He faces ex-candidate Clint Krislov.

    The Republicans have a blast from the recent past in Judy Baar Topinka, she was the state’s treasurer, ran for governor in 2006, and then took a turn as the head of the state Republican party. Two other guys, Bill Kelly and Jim Dodge are also running.


    Ex-state rep. and current Giannoulias chief of staff, Robin Kelly looks to have a solid edge over aviation security consult Justin Olbermann for the Democratic nod.

    State Senator Dan Rutherford is the only Republican running and based on his website, I’m thinking Robin Kelly will probably be the next Treasurer.

  5. but I heard that two more Republicans may be entering the race in IA-03. That would make seven GOPers trying to beat Leonard Boswell. I’ve never heard of these two guys, but apparently they were circulating nominating petitions at the off-year caucuses on January 23.

    I assume Brad Zaun and Jim Gibbons will dominate the GOP primary in IA-03, but with so many candidates in the race it’s possible no one would get 35 percent, which would force the nomination to be decided at a district convention. Then we see who was better at getting supporters elected as convention delegates.

  6. NY-23 wasn’t a normal test, as the attention of the country was focused on it for a month, allowing Hoffman the oxygen to rise, whilst MA-Sen wasn’t really about the influence of Teabaggers, it was about Democrats losing the blue-collar vote and suffering on enthusiasm.

    The Illinois ones are more interesting, because they’re more local. Therefore the answers to the following questions will have a lot of input as to how the 2010 campaign plays out:

    IL-Sen: Does Kirk get 70%? I assume nobody’s filed to run as an independent to his right, but if they have and Kirk’s victory isn’t as comprehensive as it should be, then that’s a lot of votes gone to the lunatic fringe. Even if not, it’s possible around a quarter of the refuseniks might abstain in the general, which can only help.

    IL-Gov: If Ryan wins, that shows Teabaggers don’t have a constituency without intensive mobilisation. I’m not sure who has the teabaggers support here – surely McKenna is too establishment? – but unless somebody wins with 40% there’s not much we’ll be able to say with certainty. So I’m backing Andrzejewski, purely to see what puns SSP comes up with for the name.

    IL-10: If Coulson wins convincingly, it’ll show even more than IL-Gov that just because you’ve built it, that doesn’t mean they’ll come and teabag it. You have to encourage them first.

    IL-11: Here, on the other hand, we’ll just see how the teabaggers feel about the military. What do you reckon the odds are they’ll call him a communist by November?

    IL-14: Where do teabaggers come down on this one? It’ll tell you a lot about how ethical issues will play out.

  7. Here on the South Side it’s around 30 (which is warm for this time of year…) with intermittent but light snow. Should be no turnout issues in this neck of the woods.

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