With national attention on the Republican primary for president tonight in Illinois, there are also in fact some primary races down-ballot that are worth watching — with incumbents whose careers are on the line.
In the 2010 Republican wave, the Illinois GOP defeated four Democratic incumbents. But afterwards, the state’s Democratic legislature and governor got to draw the new district lines — the first time the party has had such an opportunity in 50 years.
As a result, Democrats are expected to pick up a few seats right back, and there has been some amount of musical chairs by both Republican incumbents and Democratic candidates. And tonight, three incumbents will have their careers on the line in two districts: One, a test of whether a longtime Democratic Congressman with a famous name can weather allegations of scandal, and the other a contest between old-time and new-school House Republicans.
IL-02, Democrats: Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. vs. former Rep. Debbie Halvorson
Jesse Jackson Jr., son of the famed civil rights activist, was first elected to Congress in a 1995 special election, and has easily held this heavily Democratic district, based in the south side of Chicago and adjacent suburbs. He is being challenged, post redistricting, by former Rep. Debbie Halvorson, who in 2008 picked up a Republican-held House seat in the area, but was then defeated for re-election in the 2010 GOP wave.
The House Ethics Committee has been probing allegations that Jackson and his donors attempted to maneuver him into the appointment by then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich to President Obama’s former Senate seat.
However, a recent poll from Lake Research Partners (D) gave Jackson a hefty lead of 59%-23% over Halvorson.
IL-16, Republicans: Rep. Don Manzullo vs. Rep. Adam Kinzinger
Manzullo was first elected to the House in 1992. But in the year 2012, he is being challenged by Kinzinger, whose old district — which he picked up in 2010, defeating none other than Democratic Rep. Debbie Halvorson — was taken apart by the state’s Democratic legislature.
In fact, he was placed into the same district as Jesse Jackson Jr. — a hopeless task for a Republican.
Instead, Kinzinger has gone after Manzullo as an entrenched, earmarking spender. In addition, Kinzinger was endorsed by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a major coup for his campaign. However, a bit more of the new district is made up of Manzullo’s old territory. So this could be a close one.