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Redistricting Journal: Dems look for big gains in Illinois

new House districts for Illinois after redistricting, June 8, 2011 CBS

Mark Gersh is Washington Director of the National Committee for an Effective Congress, and a CBS News Consultant. This is a regular Hotsheet series on redistricting battles across the country.

Our focus this week shifts to Illinois. Illinois was always viewed as the state where Democrats would gain additional seats, since they control the legislature and the process. And now, legislative officials in Springfield have passed an aggressive map that may overturn the state's partisan balance, perhaps substantially. (see the map at left or click here for a larger version.)

Presently, the Republicans hold 11 of the state's 19 districts. Illinois loses one seat as a result of slow population growth. The most likely casualty of the census results is Republican Judy Biggert, whose 13th district was dismantled. She has two options: a challenging primary challenge against fellow Republican, Peter Roskam, in the 6th district, or retirement.

Going into the 2010 election, Democrats held a 12-7 advantage. Republicans gained four seats, reflecting the marginality of suburban and exurban districts in the Chicago metropolitan area, and a reversal of economic fortunes in the downstate 17th district. Consequently, small but significant changes in the Illinois map may now spawn another acute change in partisan fortunes.

Democratic aspirations, underlying the new map, are a 13-5 advantage. Republicans have denigrated the new map as a partisan overreach that also thwarted the ambitions of the Hispanic community to add a second seat in the city of Chicago and nearby suburbs. A Republican Party inspired lawsuit is a distinct possibility.

In addition to the potential of substantial Democratic gains, several Republican incumbents face potential primary fights including: Roskam and Bigger in the 6th district, freshman member and tea party favorite, Joe Walsh, and Randy Hultgren in the 14th district. Other incumbent Republicans including Adam Kinzinger (11th district), Bobby Schiling (17th district, Dan Manzullo and Tim Johnson also face potential primaries against Republican colleagues.

The ultimate impact of the Illinois map will depend upon the outcome in five districts. Here is a brief overview/summary of them:

  • Illinois 8: A sharply revised 8th district, now represented by freshman Walsh who is likely to run elsewhere. This district encompasses the northwest Chicago suburbs, including Elgin and Schaumburg. Walsh's home in McHenry County is now in the 14th district.
  • Illinois 10: Again, an incumbent's home is moved out the current district. This time it's freshman Republican Robert Dold, who still may run here. In past years, the 10th district has been the most competitive in the state. Current Republican Sen. Mark Kirk had held on against several Democratic challengers. Now the Republicans will be hard-pressed to hold the seat that has been extended into liberal Mundelein and Des Plaines in the Chicago area.
  • Illinois 11: All politics is local. And in Illinois, it is extremely local. Perhaps the new lines in the 11th district were drawn to protect 3rd district Rep. Dan Lipinski from a primary challenge launched by wealthy businessman John Atkinson. Atkinson's home in Burr Ridge is now ensconced in the 11th district, along with Joliet, Aurora and other Democratic areas. The overall political balance slightly favors Democratic, and the Republican incumbent, Adam Kinzinger, will run somewhere else against a Republican colleague.
  • Illinois 13: Democratic-leaning Springfield, Decatur, Bloomington and Champaign, comprising the redrawn 13th district, a rough replication of the existing 15th district represented by Republican Tim Johnson. The home of Republican Rep. John Shimkus in the 19th district is also part of the new 13th district. It would surprise no one if neither Johnson or Shimkus runs here, with the latter, a likely contestant in the newly designed 15th district. No matter who the candidates are, Democrats stand an even or better chance of winning the 13th district next year.
  • Illinois 17: Having lost this seat to Republican Bobby Schilling in 2010, Democrats found a way to merge Rockford, Peoria and Rock Island into the 17th district. Schilling may run here again in 2012, but would be an underdog against a credible Democratic candidate. Republican Adam Schock also lives in the new 17th district, but is likely to move to a more favorable 18th district.

More from this series:

New Indiana map bolsters Republican prospects