Bad primary for legislative leaders

The four Illinois legislative leaders did not have a spectacular primary day last week. House Speaker Chris Welch lost three incumbents to primary challengers. Senate President Don Harmon lost an appointed incumbent and an open seat race. And House Republican Leader Jim Durkin lost two incumbents and came up short in some other races. Senate GOP Leader Dan McConchie came away with one ding.

On the other hand, it was a pretty darned good day to be a young, progressive Democrat or a Trump/Bailey-affiliated Republican. State Rep. Delia Ramirez bested well-funded Chicago Ald. Gil Villegas in the 3rd Congressional District primary by a mind-boggling 42 points – the same margin as Republican Sen. Darren Bailey achieved in the governor's primary.

All of Speaker Welch's defeated incumbents were bested by talented challengers from their left. Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside, helped found a caucus for moderate Democrats and voted against repealing the Parental Notification of Abortion Act. His ties to former Speaker Michael Madigan helped for years, but not this time, when they were effectively used against him. Z is a strong legislator, a friend to most and is actually beloved by many progressive legislators, but the winds and the super hard-charging Abdelnasser Rashid got him.

Rep. Denyse Wang Stoneback, D-Skokie, was elected as a progressive two years ago, but alienated the gun law reform lobby as well as many colleagues and others during her tenure. The Gun Violence Prevention PAC went after her with a vengeance because she walked away from a landmark bill that G-PAC had negotiated. She'd also alienated her own state Senator, Ram Villivalam, and he and a host of area politicos pushed hard for Kevin Olickal, who basically ran on Stoneback's 2020 progressive platform.

The Associated Press has declared US Rep. Chuy Garcia's ally Norma Hernandez the winner over Rep. Kathy Willis, D-Addison. Hernandez ran a Chuy-style campaign – lots of family and friends networking, non-stop door-knocking and making sure progressive Latinos got to the polls.

The Senate Democrats and their allies spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to back appointed Sen. Eric Mattson, D-Joliet, against progressive Will County Board member Rachel Ventura, but Ventura won by 15 points, even though she raised only $19K all year. This is, needless to say, a big loss. After Sen. John Connor decided to run for judge, the SDems and local pols engineered Mattson's candidacy and his eventual appointment to Connor's seat, believing that Ventura could put the district on the bubble this November if she won.

The SDems also supported Lamont Williams against Willie Preston in an open seat race. Preston was up by 8 points when he declared victory. The Williams campaign had a bunch of oppo on Preston and never used it. The charter school group INCS spent heavily in the district for Preston, who had a host of endorsements, although his claimed endorsement by Secretary of State Jesse White proved to be false.

House Republican Conference Chair David Welter, R-Morris, and freshman Rep. Mark Luft, R-Pekin, both lost. The Bailey campaign and people like Jeanne Ives put a big target on Welter's back. Welter's opponent Jed Davis was also a very hard worker and won by 9 points with all votes counted except what was still in the mail.

Durkin also backed Arin Thrower in the primary to take on Rep. Suzanne Ness, D-Crystal Lake. But Thrower is trailing the much more rightward Connie Cain by just 64 votes.

Jennifer Korte, another Bailey/Ives candidate backed to the hilt by Sen. Jason Plummer, R-Edwardsville, is defeating HGOP-supported Joe Hackler by a 34-point margin for the right to take on Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville. The Durkin crew thought Korte was too far-right to have a chance against Stuart. Now they're stuck with her.

Of the five House Republican candidates endorsed by Bailey, four won, with only Kent Gray losing badly to Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield.

Sen. Bailey supported two Senate Republican candidates. One won. Bailey-backed Sen. Win Stoller, R-East Peoria, beat the Jim Durkin-backed Brett Nicklaus by about two points. Durkin jumped into this race for Nicklaus after Travis Weaver announced against Rep. Luft as a way of pushing back against the Senate Republicans and Weaver's father, whom he blamed for the younger Weaver's candidacy.

The Senate Republicans backed a candidate who ended up with bad opposition research trouble, so they got out of the race.

Also, the ultra-conservative Chicago Fraternal Order of Police endorsed three conservative and not-all-that-talented challengers to sitting Democratic legislators and all three incumbents won by huge margins.

Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.

About The Author

Rich Miller

Rich Miller publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.

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