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News

EYE ON ILLINOIS: Election not likely to change much at the Statehouse

November’s election in Illinois will be different, though it won’t likely deliver substantial change as far as Springfield is concerned.

Election day is 19 weeks away, and for the first time it will be an official state holiday. But since the major constitutional officers don’t have to run until 2022, the only real potential for a power shift is in the General Assembly. Yet even this far out the numbers tell a predictable tale.

Of the 118 House districts there are just 48 contested House races — about 41 percent of the chamber. There are 54 Democrats with no November opponent and 16 Republicans. Democrats need to hold just six seats to retain their majority and have to keep 17 to hold the supermajority. 

There are some guaranteed new faces, as 11 House incumbents are off the ballot. Democrat Rep. Yehiel Kalish lost a primary. Four House members are running for state Senate (Democrats Karina Villa and John Connor, plus Republicans Darren Bailey and Terri Bryant). Six are simply not seeking re-election, four Republicans and two Democrats. 

In the contested races, 16 are first-term lawmakers looking for a second stint, 11 Democrats and five Republicans. Even with some changes, the macro the power structure is likely to stay balanced if not tip further to the Democrats. Given the way power in the House is concentrated at the top, having some flips among inexperienced lawmakers isn’t likely to rattle any well-established foundations.

For the Senate, 19 of 59 seats are on the ballot. Of those, just seven are contested — all Democratic incumbents. Of the seats not up this cycle, 25 already belong to Democrats, so they’re guaranteed 34. They need to pick up only two to retain their supermajority. There are 15 Republicans not on the ballot this cycle, meaning the GOP will have at least 18 Senators when the dust settles.

Again there is some certain turnover as six incumbents won’t be back: two Democrats aren’t seeking reelection. All four Senate Republicans opted to not seek another term, though state Sen. Jim Oberweis did win the GOP nomination to challenge U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood. The other three seats will stay red (Bailey and Bryant will pick up two). Nine incumbent Senate Democrats are unopposed.

The ultimate math is that out of a total possible 137 legislative races, just a bit more than 40% are contested. Turnout won’t be a problem with a hotly contested presidential race and a major statewide ballot issue concerning income tax construction, but the General Assembly seems likely to come through everything without upheaval.

Unless Gov. J.B. Pritzker gets quickly serious about reforming how political maps are drawn, the stage could be set for another entire decade.

• Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at [ mailto:sholland@shawmedia.com ]sholland@shawmedia.com.

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