Democratic candidates appeared late Tuesday to have turned back challenges by Republicans in several races across suburban Chicago that could help decide control of the U.S. House of Representatives, according to unofficial results.
The election was the first to reflect Illinois’ new political map, with 17 congressional districts up for grabs — one fewer than before the results of the 2020 census showed other state’s population gains outpacing a modest increase in the number of Illinois residents.
Drawn by Democrats in the General Assembly and signed into law by Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, the map was designed to help the party keep control of the U.S. House by sending 14 Democrats and three Republicans to Congress from Illinois. That would represent a gain of one Democratic seat — and a loss of two GOP seats.
Unofficial returns late Tuesday indcate that strategy had paid off, boosted by a trip by President Joe Biden to Joliet on Saturday. A visit by House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of California to Oak Brook on Friday appeared to have been less successful.
U.S. Rep. Sean Casten, a Democrat from Downers Grove, declared victory over Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau, a Republican, to represent a significantly redrawn 6th Congressional District. Casten won 54% of the votes, with 99% of ballots counted, according to unofficial returns. Pekau conceded to Casten.
In the June Democratic primary, Casten defeated U.S. Rep. Marie Newman who found her 3rd district moved into the city of Chicago and western suburbs from the South Side and south suburbs.
Like Casten, U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, a Democrat from Naperville, found himself running for re-election in a reshaped 11th Congressional District against Catalina Lauf, of Woodstock. Foster declared victory with 56% of the vote and 100% of ballots counted, according to unofficial returns.
In the 14th Congressional District, two-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, of Naperville, declared victory over Republican Scott Gryder, of Oswego, winning 54% of the vote with 97% of ballots counted, according to unofficial returns.
Two open seats were also up for grabs.
In the 13th Congressional District downstate, Democrat Nikki Budzinski declared victory over Republican Regan Deering, winning 54% of the vote with 88% of ballots counted, according to unofficial returns.
Democrat Eric Sorenson declared victory early Wednesday morning over Republican Esther Joy King with 51.7% of the vote with 93% of ballots counted. Sorenson is set to replace retiring U.S. Rep Cheri Bustos, a Democrat, in the state’s 17th Congressional District, which includes Rockford.
New Members Set to Join Chicago Congressional Delegation
While most of the attention on Election Day will focus on Chicago’s suburbs, the city’s congressional delegation will get two new Democratic members: state Rep. Delia Ramirez and Jonathan Jackson.
In the June primary, Ramirez easily defeated Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th Ward) to claim the Democratic nomination in the newly created 3rd Congressional District, drawn to represent a majority of Latino Democratic voters. In Tuesday’s general election, she easily defeated Republican challenger Justin Burau, according to unofficial returns.
In the 1st Congressional District, Jonathan Jackson emerged victorious after a 17-candidate primary to claim the Democratic nomination after U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush announced he would retire. Jackson, the son of civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson Jr., handily defeated Republican challenger Eric Carlson, according to unofficial returns.
Both districts are home to a supermajority of Democratic voters.
Both Jackson and Ramirez had the backing of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and other national leaders of the progressive wing of the national Democratic Party.