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Progressives Look for More Gains From Illinois Primary


Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner addresses the crowd on primary election night, March 20, 2018, in Chicago. Rauner has won the Republican nomination for a second term and will face Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker in the general elect

Progressives were facing their latest test Tuesday in Illinois, with a slew of candidates vying for a chance to help Democrats try to gain control of the U.S. House this fall.

Enthusiasm has been higher than usual among Democrats in the left-leaning state. In several districts currently held by Republican congressmen, areas where Democrats have sometimes struggled to field even one candidate, roughly a half dozen Democrats are seeking the party’s nomination in Tuesday’s primary. Many of them are motivated by President Donald Trump’s election and his policies.

Tuesday’s primary also will decide whether one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress keeps his seat, as well as the likely successor to longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, who’s retiring. There also are hotly contested primaries for governor and attorney general as well as legislative races, among others. Here’s a look:

Voters cast their ballots in Illinois primary elections at the city's new early voting super site in downtown Chicago, Illinois, March 13, 2018.
Voters cast their ballots in Illinois primary elections at the city's new early voting super site in downtown Chicago, Illinois, March 13, 2018.


Seven-term Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski held a narrow lead over political newcomer Marie Newman in the 3rd Congressional District. She was backed by progressive groups and lawmakers including Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Newman calls Lipinski, who is anti-abortion and voted against the Affordable Care Act, a “full-on Republican” whose positions no longer reflect those of the heavily Democratic district that includes parts of Chicago and its suburbs.

Lipinski calls Newman and her supporters a “tea party of the left.” He says their intolerance for differing viewpoints within the party could end up hurting Democrats.

Seven Democrats are looking to take on GOP Rep. Peter Roskam for the seat representing the 6th Congressional District. Voters in the suburban Chicago district supported Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016, making it one of Democrats’ top pick-up possibilities in November.

“We deserve a representative who will represent us,” said candidate Kelly Mazeski.

Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia won the Democratic primary to replace the retiring U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, in the 4th congressional district, a race that included activist Sol Flores and Chicago police officer Richard Gonzalez.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker, right, celebrates winning the Democratic gubernatorial primary with lieutenant governor candidate Juliana Stratton, March 20, 2018, in Chicago.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker, right, celebrates winning the Democratic gubernatorial primary with lieutenant governor candidate Juliana Stratton, March 20, 2018, in Chicago.


Billionaire J.B. Pritzker won the Democratic nomination for Illinois governor, defeating five others including Chris Kennedy, nephew of the late President John F. Kennedy, and state Sen. Daniel Biss, a self-described “middle-class candidate.”

Pritzker has put roughly $70 million into his campaign as he now turns his attention to the November election.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner narrowly escaped a primary challenge from the right. State Rep. Jeanne Ives, a fiscal and social conservative, argued the first-term governor betrayed the party on issues such as immigration and abortion.

A Pritzker/Rauner matchup in the general election was expected to make the contest the most expensive governor’s race in U.S. history, with Rauner already spending freely from his own personal fortune.

Attorney general

State Sen Kwame Raoul declared victory over an eight-Democrat field for attorney general after receiving a concession call from runner-up former Gov. Pat Quinn. Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s surprise announcement that she wouldn’t seek a fifth term prompted the large group of hopefuls to get into the race.

The senator said that he will “expand upon” Madigan’s work, adding that he has “big shoes to fill.”

Raoul and Quinn battled it out through competing campaign ads in the final push of the primary election, accusing each other of conflicts of interest and other inappropriate behavior. Also running were state Rep. Scott Drury, Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering, former Civilian Office of Police Accountability administrator Sharon Fairley, former Illinois State Board of Education chairman Jesse Ruiz, MSNBC legal contributor Renato Mariotti and Aaron Goldstein, a member of ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s defense team.

Attorney and former Miss America Erika Harold won the Republican nomination, soundly defeating former Burr Ridge Mayor Gary Grasso. Harold scored contributions from Rauner and backing from the Illinois Republican Party.

She said she is committed to represent “all Illinoisans regardless of political affiliation,” promising to be an independent voice that can stand up to political corruption.


Deep intra-party divisions also have surfaced in legislative primaries.

A conservative political action committee that once backed Rauner is now supporting challengers to GOP House members who helped Democrats approve an income tax hike to end a state budget stalemate last year. The group also funded a challenge to House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, who didn’t vote for the tax increase but attracted conservative anger for his failure to hold his caucus together and stop it. Durkin won easily.

Chicago Democratic state Sen. Ira Silverstein was ousted after a 20-year career. A victims-rights advocate accused Silverstein of sexual harassment for sending inappropriate messages while they worked on legislation. The legislative inspector general declared there was no sexual harassment but that Silverstein had acted unprofessionally. He lost handily to Ram Villivalam, a union activist.

Longtime Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, a near-constant GOP target, is also an issue in several Democratic primaries. In the race for an open northwest Cook County seat, lawyer Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz has been criticized by her four opponents for taking money from Madigan campaign accounts and called on to return it. She says she’s not beholden to him.


Election officials say Illinois is remaining vigilant against cybersecurity risks after Russian hackers were able to breach the state’s voter registration systems in 2016.

State Board of Elections spokesman Matt Dietrich says state officials have been working with the Department of Homeland Security to test Illinois’ voting registration systems weekly for vulnerabilities.

Dietrich said he doesn’t anticipate any issues with the voting systems themselves, as a hacker would need physical access to the machines.

Russian agents targeted elections systems in 21 states ahead of the 2016 election, according to DHS. In Illinois, hackers accessed 76,000 active voter registration records but were unable to add, change or delete any data.