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Illinois: Democrats’ Redistricting Crown Jewel Not as Royal as Expected

Rep. Jan Schakowsky campaigns with Democratic House hopefuls Tammy Duckworth and Brad Schneider at Harmony Park in Arlington Heights, Ill. (Shira Toeplitz/CQ Roll Call)
Rep. Jan Schakowsky campaigns with Democratic House hopefuls Tammy Duckworth and Brad Schneider at Harmony Park in Arlington Heights, Ill. (Shira Toeplitz/CQ Roll Call)

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. — Democratic hopes of winning the House majority have been quashed, but in this northern Chicago suburb’s crowded village hall on a Saturday morning, one can see the glimmer of what might have been.

At this single location, early voters wait an hour to cast ballots in one of three redrawn Congressional districts. The hall serves as a symbol of the extent to which Democrats redrew the lines of the state’s map to their advantage.

Throughout the cycle, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.) repeated these words: “The road to the majority runs through Illinois.” But less than week before Election Day, it’s clear that Democrats won’t net the 25 seats needed to regain the Speaker’s gavel, and it’s equally clear they won’t make as many gains in Illinois as they had hoped.

Democrats redrew the state’s Congressional map to yield as much as a five-seat gain. Ultimately, the party might only pick up a few of them.

“I think it’s a competitive map that was drawn,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) said as she waited in line to vote early at this precinct. “We’ll see how the election turns out, but I think the Republicans are certainly running competitive races all over the state. It’s by no means just a given that Democrats are going to win.”

In their redraw, Democrats overhauled the downstate districts held by Rep. Bobby Schilling (R) and retiring Rep. Timothy Johnson (R) to make them more hospitable for Democrats. But Rep. Jerry Costello’s (D) retirement in a neighboring district, plus recruitment problems in the Johnson seat, made picking up those two seats more difficult.

What’s more, Schilling appears to be hanging on against one of Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin’s (D-Ill.) favorite candidates, East Moline Alderwoman Cheri Bustos (D).

Around Chicago, Democrats crafted three more favorable suburban districts. Two incumbents in these districts, GOP Reps. Judy Biggert and Joe Walsh, are underdogs. But freshman Rep. Robert Dold (R) could pull out a win in the most Democratic district in the country held by a House Republican.

“They’ve got a funny thing coming their way,” Rep. Peter Roskam (R) said at a Palatine, Ill., event for Walsh that same morning. “They have fundamentally underestimated who they are as a party and how they are perceived in our state. They have underestimated the caliber of our candidates and the environment under which they’re operating.”

Today we report from the road on Dold’s race in the 10th district. Stay tuned tomorrow for reports on races in the 8th and 11th districts, where Biggert and Walsh are underdogs.

More coverage of the Rust Belt Road Trip here.

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