Primary season reaches Illinois

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David Gill (left) holds a slim lead over opponent Matt Goetten in the 13th district's Democratic primary.

By Brexton Isaacs, Staff Writer

The race for the Republican presidential nomination has remained largely the same over the past few weeks with both the Romney and Santorum camps capturing big states while Gingrich and Paul hold on as potential spoilers of a Santorum nomination.

Romney won Illinois’s primary on Tuesday, March 20. Each of the parties held primaries to nominate their standard-bearer in the November general election.

Illinois is an incredibly important state to both parties, who are fighting for control of the US House of Representatives. Democrats are looking to pick up as many as five seats in November, but Republicans are still hoping to hold on to many.

In the second district, incumbent Rep. Jessie Jackson Jr., who has represented the district since 1995, trounced former one-term Rep. Debbie Halvorson in the Democratic primary. Jackson was seen as weak by Halvorson due to ethics charges against the congressman in relationship to Fmr. Governor Blagojevich’s attempt to sell President Obama’s former Senate seat.

This attempt proved to be futile for Halvorson, as she was beat 3-1. Jackson is likely to face very little opposition in the general election.

Tammy Duckworth beat Raja Krishnamoorthi in the eighth district Democratic primary. Duckworth is a former official of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and will go on to face embattled incumbent Rep. Joe Walsh.

Walsh has been under much scrutiny since taking office due to controversial comments he has made about President Obama and for an ongoing court case over child support money that he has not paid his ex-wife. This is a top target for Democrats in 2012 and is on their Red-to-Blue list.

The 10th district had quite the upset in the Democratic primary. Grassroots organizer Ilya Sheyman, a young progressive democrat, was defeated by the more conservative Brad Schneider. While this is a letdown to progressives, Schneider has a better shot at taking out one-term Rep. Robert Dold, another top target of the Democrats.

Fmr. Rep. Bill Foster handily won the Democratic nomination in the eleventh district for the opportunity to challenge incumbent Rep. Judy Biggert. Biggert has represented the district since 1999, but is the underdog of this race after the district was re-drawn to favor Democrats by a solid margin. This is yet another Red-to-Blue seat for Democrats.

What will be perhaps one of the closest congressional elections in the state, Fmr. Regional Superintendent Brad Harrington and 2010 Lt. Gov. nominee Jason Plummer will square off as the Democratic and Republican nominee, respectively.

The district has been represented by Democrat Jerry Costello since 1988, but Costello decided to retire at the end of his term.

The seat used to be a fairly safe Democratic seat but is more evenly split now after a re-draw of the map. Democrats will have to spend more time than usual holding onto this seat if they need it to take the majority.

In the most heated member vs. member fight of the season, so far, first term Rep. Adam Kinzinger came out victorious in his battle with 20-year veteran, Rep. Don Manzullo. Both Kinzinger and Manzullo are Republicans.

Manzullo represented the district for his entire career, but after being redistricted into the Democratic-heavy second district, Kinzinger felt he had a better shot at holding onto a seat if he moved to the 16th.

This race was highly symbolic of the Republican party’s inner struggle between the new and the old. There is currently no Democratic candidate to challenge Kinzinger in November.

Democrat Cheri Bustos will be taking on first-term Rep. Bobby Schilling, a Republican, who recently came under fire for using over $300,000 of taxpayer dollars on campaign-style mailings. While this is legal, the amount is highly excessive compared to other representatives.

Bustos is heavily favored in the district and is a targeted candidate for the Democrats’ Red-to-Blue program.

Finally, the 13th district—the  district in which IWU is located—has yet to declare a Democratic nominee for incumbent Republican Rep. Tim Johnson to square off with. Four-time congressional candidate David Gill is currently winning by 143 votes over Green County States Attorney Matt Goetten.

Goetten is obviously the party favorite and was endorsed by Senator Dick Durban, among others, while Gill has strong name recognition from running year after year.

Gill has declared victory, even though no one has called the election and many ballots are being recounted after inconsistencies were reported in a handful of districts. Absentee and provisional ballots are also yet to be counted.

Gill is seen as a weaker general election candidate than Goetten, who has more moderate views, but not all Democrats are willing to concede if Gill wins the nomination for the fourth time.

“The College Democrats plan on volunteering for whoever ends up winning the nomination,” said IWU College Democrats Vice President Max Renner. “The race hasn’t been declared, but we’ll be happy to work for either candidate.”

Illinois is sure to be a battleground for control of the U.S. House in 2012 and will send a crop of new people to Capitol Hill in January 2013.