We’re here, Election Day. Many people may have already voted since early voting started a few weeks ago. However, votes won’t be counted until the polls close on Tuesday.
There are a LOT of races that will have a major impact and a lot of races period. Here, we’ll highlight the ones that the Illinois Eagle will be watching most closely. These are by no means the only important races, just the ones we’ll be watching on Election Night.
JB Pritzker and Darren Bailey
This is the big one in Illinois. Whoever wins will govern the state for the next four years.
Pritzker, a Democrat, is expected to win. He defeated the widely unpopular Bruce Rauner and was governor during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. He has also been a consistently progressive governor, signing many LGBTQ-inclusive laws, like the Inclusive Curriculum Act; making some attempts at restorative justice such as with cannabis licenses; and expanding access to abortion services, such as the Parental Notice Act repeal. He has also been very vocal about stronger gun control, support for immigrants and bail reform. He hasn’t been as vocal about police reform, but he didn’t get the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police.
Bailey, a conservative state senator from Eastern Illinois, has been vocal in his opposition to everything that Pritzker has supported. He has compared abortion to the Holocaust, opposed all LGBTQ-supportive policies and laws, including the Inclusive Curriculum Act and adding gender-affirming care to Illinois Medicaid. He was the most conservative of the seven candidates in the GOP primary this year, beating moderate Aurora Mayor Ricard Irvin. He has promised to ban critical race theory (CRT) from schools, despite it not being taught out of the college level, and to push back against “gender ideology.”
Bailey has also been endorsed by former President Donald Trump.
Most polls place Pritzker comfortably ahead. FiveThirtyEight’s average has Pritzker at 56.1% to Bailey’s 39.9%. With strong support in Chicago and the collar counties, Pritzker should easily win. But we’ll be watching this just to make sure.
Sean Casten and Keith Pekau – 6th district
This district could be up for grabs. The district covers parts of the collar counties northwest of Chicago. This also happens to be an area where there has been major pushback on LGBTQ events locally, especially any event that has family-friendly drag. Both candidates have staked out their positions with Casten, the incumbent, declaring his support for the LGBTQ community. Pekau, the mayor of Orland Park, has been just as vocal in opposition, denouncing a drag queen bingo for teens in Downers Grove that was later cancelled because of threats. He has also been a regular supporter of the extremist group Awake Illinois, that has been fighting anything inclusive.
FiveThirtyEight has the race slightly favored for Casten. The suburban counties around Chicago, which have the bulk of the state’s population, have been growing more progressive in recent elections. But a Democratic win is still not guarantee, so this could come down to the wire.
Eric Sorensen and Esther Joy King – 17th district
Cheri Bustos (D) is stepping down so this is an open seat. The sprawling district stretches from north of the Quad Cities down to include parts of Peoria, Bloomington-Normal, Rockford and Macomb. In the past, the district has gone for both Obama and Trump. With the mix of urban and rural, college towns and farming communities, it is not an easy district to predict. Eric Sorensen, a Democrat, is going against Esther Joy King, the Republican. Both are natives to the area. Sorensen has slightly better name recognition as a meterologist for local TV but King has done well in fundraising, according to WCBU.
FiveThirtyEight has the race slightly favored to Sorensen. If he does win, Sorensen will also make history as the first out gay U.S. Representative from Illinois. WCBU says it may come down to how Peoria votes.
Nikki Budzinski and Regan Deering – 13th district
The 13th district is basically a new district. Redistricting took the current representative, Rodney Davis (R) out of the district and put him into the 15th, where he lost the primary to far-right Mary Miller.
The district was carefully redrawn to cover Metro East’s and Central Illinois’ largest cities, including East St. Louis, Springfield, Decatur and Champaign/Urbana. It pits union organizer Nikki Budzinski (D) to business owner Regan Deering (R). FiveThirtyEight has the race as a likely Budzinski win, giving the Democrats their only downstate seat. But both campaigns have been advertising hard with a lot of outside money coming in. It, along with the 15th, is seen as key to control of the House after the election.
Illinois Supreme Court
Unlike most states and the federal government, Illinois elects its Supreme Court justices. Democrats have had the majority for decades. Normally the election would be seen as a done deal. But with Supreme Court redistricting, the removal of spending caps and former justice Thomas Kilbride losing his retention vote in 2020, the court is in play. Two seats are open on the state’s top court and the races have been instense.
The districts are the 2nd, with Lake, Kane, McHenry, Kendall, and DeKalb counties; and the 3rd, with DuPage, Will, Kankakee, Grundy, Iroquois, LaSalle, and Bureau counties. The seats were drawn to give Democrats an advantage.
If the GOP wins the seats, they would have a majority on the Supreme Court for the first time since 1969. And with the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade and taking aim other progressive issues, state supreme courts will be the next battleground.
InJustice Watch reported that abortion rights advocates are worried about Illinois’ status as a haven if Republicans get control. The most vulnerable law, advocates said, could be the Youth Health and Safety Act, which was signed into law last year and repealed a state law requiring that people younger than age 18 notify a parent or legal guardian at least 48 hours before receiving an abortion.
With a GOP majority, that law could be repealed. And there are already cases in the system to do just that.