Republican voters across the state of Illinois are heading to the polls today to cast their ballots in the Illinois Primary.
It is the first time in a long time that the Illinois Presidential Primary matters. Mitt Romney is the odds on favorite to win tonight, both in delegates and in the popular vote. Illinois has 18 Congressional Districts, each of which is sending delegates to the Tampa convention. We lucky GOP voters get to not only select the person we want to be president, but we also get to elect the actual delegates themselves, each of whom is pledged to one of the candidates.
Rick Santorum missed filling 10 of the 54 possible delegate spots, thus there is no way for him to capture all of the delegates and because of where he is missing them, there are Congressional districts that he is favored to win, where he will not get delegates because he failed to fill his delegate roster on the ballot.
There are a few key areas of the state to watch tonight. Romney is expected to win Cook County, the state's largest county, along with the majority of the collar counties (Lake, DuPage, Will are the largest). It will be interesting to see how well Romney performs in the suburbs tonight. Santorum's appeal has varied in suburbs in previous states.
Outside of the Chicago Metro, keep an eye on the numbers out of Sangamon County, home to the state capital Springfield; Winnebago County, home to Rockford; McLean County, home to Bloomington; St. Clair and Madison Counties, home to the eastern suburbs of St. Louis; Peoria and Tazewell County, home to Peoria; Champaign County, home to the largest state college in Illinois and the towns of Champaign and Urbana; and Rock Island County, home to the Illinois portion of the Quad Cities.
All of these counties are reliably Republican in November, but Romney's strength or weakness in those counties will tell us a lot about whether he is finally connecting to more small city and town voters or if Santorum still holds a monopoly on them. Santorum is expected to outperform Romney in the vast majority of the sparsely populated counties with very small towns and villages, but Romney needs to show some strength outside of the Chicago Metro to start changing the narrative about his campaign.
The most interesting Republican Primary tonight that also has national remifications is the race between Adam Kinzinger and Don Manzullo for a Congressional seat that Democrats remapped them into. Each is a sitting Congressman, but both saw their home district redrawn to force them into a contest against each other. Manzullo is the 20 year D.C. veteran while Kinzinger is a freshman having served less than 2 years. The winner of tonight's race is expected to hold the seat in November barring some catastrophe. It is a classic Illinois GOP generational struggle between the grizzled political veteran and the fresh-faced, new ideas youngster.
Here are a couple of other names to keep in mind in tonight's Congressional races:
Fredrick Collins vs. Donald Peloquin in the 1st Congressional. This is another generational battle, though neither is likely to win in November. However, the winner of tonight's primary may have a better shot at gaining a respectable outcome than previous 1st district Republicans given Bobby Rush's chronic absenteeism and a weak Democratic field. Plus, the storyline of a Chicago Police officer (Collins) vs. an undertaker (Peloquin) is too good to not write about.
Jim Falvey is a real player in the 3rd District. Dan Lipinski has long been considered an untouchable, but Falvey is the most overly-qualified candidate the GOP has run in Illinois in a long time. He carries a B.A. from Notre Dame, a J.D. from Georgetown and an MBA from Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management. Oh and he was near the top of his class in just about everthing. No doubt about who the smartest person in this contest is...
In the 10th District, Congressman Dold is praying for Ilya Sheyman to win tonight's Democratic primary so he can squash him in November. A Brad Schneider win would spell trouble for our north suburban hero.
Remember Jason Plummer? He was about 32,000 votes away from being your Lieutenant Governor in 2010. He is on the ballot again in the 12th Congressional race against former NFL player and Belleville Mayor Roger Cook and psychiatric nurse, Theresa Kormos. Cook is likely to win this one and probably gives the GOP the best chance to steal a Blue district in November (thank you Jerry Costello).
Bobby Shilling could be in trouble in the 17th District if Cheri Bustos (Sen. Dick Durbin's hand picked candidate) wins her race tonight. She is more capable of capturing western Illinois votes than more Democrats and should be respected as a serious threat to a red district.
There are too many state legislative races to mention but keep an eye out for Kirk Dillard's state senate race. His opponent is underwhelming, but it is another one of those generational races to watch. And if Dillard plans on running again for Governor in 2014, he wants a strong showing tonight.
Shout out to Sandra Stoppa, Tom Swiss and Michele Piszczor. They are all running as Democrats (wink, wink) but kudos for giving them hell in the 10th, 19th and 22nd state house districts. I will fall out my chair with laughter if any of these three wins. Especially Tom. I really, really, really hope Tom steals the 10th.
Watching Maria Berrios lose in the 39th would be a nice surprise and some overdue payback for the Berrios family who has gained power and wealth at the expense of the people who elected them to serve the community.
The results will come fast and furious starting at 7pm tonight and most races will be decided by 9pm. I will post a run down here tomorrow of the noteworthy results.