- Democrat JB Pritzker easily bested his Democratic rivals, with 45 percent of the vote in the primary. His nearest rival, state Sen. Daniel Biss, was down almost 20 points, with 26.5 percent of the vote.
- Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner won his primary by only four points against conservative state Rep. Jeanne Ives. This lack of enthusiasm in the primary could portend trouble for him in the fall in what is already a blue-leaning state. If these voters don’t show up for him in the general election, he almost certainly will be defeated. Pritzker’s vote total alone is almost equal to the combined number of votes in the entire Republican primary.
- Pritzker and Rauner are expected to spend heavily in the general election in what has already been a record-breaking primary in terms of campaign spending. See gubernatorial race background for more detailed info.
- Although there was much discussion that progressive challengers would threaten Democratic incumbents, Rep. Dan Lipinski was able to beat challenger Marie Newman, 51-49 percent. On the other hand, Aaron Ortiz successfully defeated longtime incumbent Dan Burke in his heavily Latino district (State House District 1).
Statewide - Governor
Statewide - Attorney General
U.S. House District 2:
- Incumbent Democratic Rep. Robin Kelly easily won her primary against a challenger, with 82 percent of the vote.
- Although there will be a Republican opponent, this is a safe Democratic seat.
U.S. House District 3:
- In a closely watched primary, conservative Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski was able to hold onto his seat, with 50.9 percent of the vote and 97 percent of precincts reporting.
- Progressive challenger Marie Newman was backed by several members of the Democratic Congressional delegation, including Jan Schakowsky and Luis Gutierrez, and liberal groups including Emily’s List and SEIU. Newman received 49.1 percent of the vote.
- Although progressives had targeted Lipinski for his opposition to abortion and votes against the Affordable Care Act, he retained his seat due to strong support in Chicago.
- This is a safe Democratic seat. The Republican opponent is a Holocaust denier.
U.S. House District 4:
- This safe Democratic seat was open due to Luis Gutierrez’s retirement. Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, backed by Gutierrez, cruised to victory, with 66 percent of the vote against challengers.
U.S. House District 5:
- Democratic Rep. Mike Quigley confidently won re-election, with 63 percent of the vote against challengers.
- This is a safe Democratic seat.
U.S. House District 6:
- In a seven-way primary, Democrat Sean Casten won, with 29.9 percent of the vote. Kelly Mazeski came in a close second with 26.5 percent.
- Incumbent Republican Rep. Peter Roskam was unopposed.
- This is a top-tier Democratic target for pickup in the fall.
U.S. House District 7:
- Incumbent Democratic Rep. Danny Davis was re-elected, with 74 percent of the vote in the primary.
- This is a safe Democratic seat.
U.S. House District 10:
- Republican Douglas Bennett won the primary, with 36.5 percent of the vote.
- He will take on Democratic incumbent Brad Schneider.
U.S. House District 11:
- Republican Nick Stella won the primary, with 79 percent of the vote.
- He will take on Democratic Rep. Bill Foster.
U.S. House District 12:
- Democrat Brendan Kelly won, with 81 percent of the vote.
- He will take on Republican Mike Bost in the fall.
- This is a seat Democrats are hoping to flip.
U.S. House District 13:
- Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan easily won her primary, with 46 percent of the vote in a five-way race. She had the support of Emily’s List and Sen. Dick Durbin.
- Londrigan will challenge Republican Rep. Rodney Davis in the fall.
- This is a top-tier race Democrats are hoping to win.
U.S. House District 14:
- Democrat Lauren Underwood won her primary, with 57 percent of the vote.
- She will face incumbent Republican Randy Hultgren.
U.S. House District 16:
- Democrat Sara Dady won her primary, with 41 percent of the vote. She will face Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger in the fall.
Gubernatorial Race Background
The gubernatorial race dominated the news cycle of early 2018, with state Sen. Daniel Biss, billionaire J.B. Pritzker, and businessman and Kennedy heir Chris Kennedy vying for the Democratic nomination. Incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner and state Rep. Jeanne Ives, a fiscal and social conservative, fought for the Republican nomination. The race featured record-breaking campaign contributions. However, that spending didn’t directly translate into support from voters. Polls of Democratic primary voters show that, while Pritzker maintained a healthy lead throughout the race, about a third of voters were undecided with just a few days remaining. This is despite the unprecedented sum Pritzker spent in the primary. On the Republican side, Gov. Rauner had very low approval, which continued to fall despite his substantial financial resources. According to a poll released in early March by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, Rauner trailed behind Democratic gubernatorial candidates Pritzker and Biss by double digits, even though Biss raised only $6 million for his campaign.
The biggest theme from the gubernatorial primary has been the record-breaking campaign contributions, mainly from Pritzker and Rauner. By March, Pritzker spent nearly $70 million of his own money in the race, surpassing the $66 million that President Donald Trump spent on his entire 2016 campaign. Rauner contributed $50 million to his campaign as well. In early March, a Chicago Sun-Times analysis found that more than 25.9 percent of money contributed to Illinois political campaigns of the last two years came from Rauner, Pritzker, Rauner supporter Kenneth Griffin, and former Rauner supporter Richard Uihlein. With over $113 million spent on the primary election alone, the 2018 gubernatorial race is well on its way of becoming the most expensive gubernatorial election of all time.
Beyond spending, political scandals marred the gubernatorial primary across the spectrum. In early February, Pritzker experienced backlash for an old, secretly recorded conversation with former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Pritzker and Blagojevich discussed a list of African-Americans whom Blagojevich could appoint as a potential successor to Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate. The two weighed the pros and cons of each candidate, including calling Secretary of State Jesse White the “least offensive” choice. In the wake of the controversy, Emil Jones, a Kennedy supporter, called for Pritzker to leave the race, and a low-level Pritzker staffer resigned a few days later. The tape became an easy attack from Rauner and fellow Democratic candidates, with Pritzker apologizing on numerous occasions for his remarks. During a March 1 debate, Pritzker stated, “When I say I’m wrong, I’m wrong, and I was wrong on that call and I take responsibility for that.”
Earlier that week, Republican candidate Jeanne Ives sparked controversy for an ad broadcast on behalf of her campaign. The ad, which Ives continued to stand by, shows crude depictions of a Women’s March protestor, a unionized teacher, and an actor portrayed as a transgender woman, all thanking Rauner for “policy choices” he’s made. Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider immediately denounced the ad and called for its removal, while Rauner criticized it two days after the ad ran.
Rauner’s challenge from the right was largely motivated by a number of recent actions he took on legislation, including his signing of a bill expanding abortion access in September; his signing of the Trust Act in August, which enacted the strongest state-level due process protections against deporting immigrants; and his signing of an additional $450 million in Chicago Public School funding. Rauner’s decisions have alienated many of the Republican Party’s more conservative voters. In recent months, the governor has been criticized for his handling of reported Legionnaire’s disease, a rare type of pneumonia, at a veterans’ home in downstate Quincy. This outbreak has caused the death of 13 veterans.
Even after he visited the house in January to address the situation, four more cases emerged. However, in early March, Rauner announced that he would replace the Quincy residence halls on top of an original plan to remove antiquated plumbing.
High-Profile Illinois - General Assembly Primaries
I. Illinois House of Representatives
a. 82nd House District - Rep. Jim Durkin and Mickey Straub
In the most expensive primary race, Burr Ridge Mayor Mickey Straub challenged House Minority Leader Jim Durkin. Straub was backed by conservative radio host Dan Proft, an Ives backer and former Rauner supporter disillusioned with Republicans who voted in favor of the July budget package that increased the state’s income tax. Although Durkin voted against these bills, 15 Republicans joined with Democrats in support, with 10 supporting an override of the governor’s veto.
*Fundraising totals in this section may include some candidates not listed above (e.g., a Democratic candidate in a safe Republican district).
b. 28th House District – Rep. Robert “Bob” Rita, Mary Carvlin and Kimberly Koschnitzky
Rep. Bob Rita has served for the past 16 years and is a member of a Blue Island family political dynasty. Rita faced controversy shortly before Election Day when accusations of a 2002 domestic violence incident emerged. Mary Carvlin, a Spanish teacher from Blue Island, accused the third candidate, Kimberly Koschnitzky, of being a “ghost candidate” who was put on the ballot to draw votes away from Carvlin.
c. 5th House District – Lamont Robinson, Dilara Sayeed, Ken Dunkin and Felicia Bullock
In 2016, Ken Dunkin and Juliana Stratton’s race in the 5th District was the most closely watched and most expensive race of the cycle. Given Stratton’s current run for lieutenant governor, Dunkin wished to regain the seat, although he had isolated Democratic voters due to his support of Rauner on key votes. Lamont Robinson, backed by Speaker Madigan and his allies, ran for the seat along with two other contenders.
d. 1st House District – Rep. Daniel Burke and Aaron Ortiz
Brother to longtime Alderman Ed Burke, Rep. Daniel Burke, who has served since 1991, was challenged by 26-year-old progressive Aaron Ortiz. Congressional frontrunner Chuy Garcia had endorsed Ortiz. Burke’s district is the second-most Latino district in the House, with 68 percent of the population being Latino. Dan Burke’s loss would signal a more liberal and diverse Democratic Party and the diminished influence of historically powerful ward organizations in turning out votes.
e. 17th House District – Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, Candace Chow, Alexandra Eidenberg, Mary Rita Luecke and Peter Dagher
This open seat currently held by Rep. Laura Fine, who is running for Daniel Biss’ Senate seat, is one of the most expensive primaries of the cycle. The two main contenders, Gong-Gershowitz and Chow, have raised significant amounts of money, sending out negative mailers attacking each other. Gong-Gershowitz is backed by Speaker Madigan and his allies, while Chow, viewed as more independent, was endorsed by the Chicago Tribune and a number of female legislators.
II. Illinois Senate
a. 8th Senate District – Sen. Ira Silverstein, Ram Villivalam, Caroline McAteer-Fournier and David Zulkey
Sen. Ira Silverstein became embroiled in controversy last year when a female lobbyist, with whom he was working on a bill, accused him of sexual harassment. Prompted by the #MeToo movement, Denise Rotheimer released Facebook messages sent by Silverstein as evidence of his indiscretions. The Illinois Legislative Inspector General ruled that Silverstein wasn’t guilty of sexual harassment, but had behaved “in a manner unbecoming of a legislator.” Silverstein also had to fight to remain on the ballot, but ultimately, the Chicago Board of Elections ruled in his favor. In response to this scandal, progressive labor union activist Ram Villivalam was endorsed by both the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times, as well as Congress members Jan Schakowsky, Brad Schneider and Raja Krishnamoorthi. Senate leadership ultimately did back Silverstein in the primary, transferring money to his campaign committee.
Cook County Races
Cook County Assessor
In a highly publicized race, incumbent Joe Berrios, Fritz Kaegi and Andrea Raila endured a long primary battle. In June 2017, the Chicago Tribune reported how Cook County’s property tax system was regressive, with low-income owners paying higher taxes and wealthier owners paying less. In days before the primary, a University of Chicago study found that ,from 2011 to 2015, $2.2 billion was shifted from undertaxed properties onto overtaxed properties, which were overseen by Assessor Berrios. Raila, a property tax advocate, experienced controversy of her own over alleged petition violations, with thousands of early voters told a vote for her would be invalid. However, a last-minute judicial panel ruled in her favor, putting her back on the ballot for primary election day. Kaegi, a former wealth manager and chair of the Cook County Democratic Party, ran as a progressive alternative to Berrios.
Overview of Cook County Board Races
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle easily dispatched challenger Bob Fioretti, with more than 60 percent of the vote, and is all but guaranteed election to a third and final term in the heavily Democratic county. That is despite the continued fallout from the now-repealed sweetened beverage tax, which was a major issue in the campaign for board president and filtered down into a number of individual commissioner races.
The 17-member Board of Commissioners will see five new members join its ranks in December, a high level of turnover that will significantly alter existing dynamics.
Incumbent Commissioners John Fritchey (D-12) and Richard Boykin (D-1) both appear to have lost to challengers heavily backed by organized labor, partly as a result of their opposition to the sweetened beverage tax. While Fritchey conceded to opponent Bridget Degnan Tuesday evening, Boykin narrowly trailed challenger Brandon Johnson by just over 300 votes as of 8 a.m. Wednesday morning. All other incumbent members of the Board of Commissioners were either victorious or unopposed in the primary election.
In open seat races, Alma Anaya (the handpicked successor of Commissioner and now Congressman-elect Chuy Garcia) defeated opponent Angie Sandoval, 58 to 42 percent, in the 7th District. In the south suburban 6th District, Donna Miller leads Patricia Murphy by approximately 1,000 votes for the seat previously held by the late Commissioner Joan Murphy (Patricia’s mother). Finally, in the 3rd District, Bill Lowry leads with 33 percent in a crowded field of candidates to replace retiring Commissioner Jerry Butler.
In total, these results are likely to re-establish the amount of control Preckwinkle is able to exert over the members of the board, which was weakened during the contentious beverage tax debate and eventual repeal. Boykin and Fritchey were two of her loudest Democratic critics and will be replaced by friendlier voices. Lowry was Preckwinkle’s endorsed candidate in the 3rd District, having previously served as her campaign finance chairman, and Anaya is expected to continue Garcia’s strong support for Preckwinkle’s agenda. Organized labor’s influence on the board also grew with the primary election results, which will need to be monitored as the county board has been a forum for some increasingly pro-labor/anti-business measures to be put forward. That activity may increase in the coming years.