Watch now: Former Pritzker adviser may challenge Rodney Davis

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Republicans U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, of Taylorville, state Sen. Jason Barickman, and state Rep. Dan Brady, both of Bloomington, held a press conference in uptown Normal about the Democratic-proposed legislative redistricting map.





Sierra Henry




But the more detailed redistricting data released by the U.S. Census Bureau last week confirmed something many already suspected: Downstate Illinois hollowed out while the Chicago metropolitan area experienced stagnant growth.

In total, eight counties in populous northeastern Illinois (Cook County, the five suburban “collar” counties and exurban Grundy and Kendall counties) combined for nearly 149,000 in population growth, while the rest of the state lost nearly 167,000 people.

It may have been Agriculture Day at the Illinois State Fair, but it was still infrastructure week as Illinois elected officials, at separate events across town, offered diverging views Tuesday on federal legislation that has emerged over the past few months. 

There are many stories out of these numbers, ranging from the demographic shifts that reflect a changing state racially and ethnically to the urban/rural divide that’s been apparent for sometime.

Perhaps the most pressing story is what the numbers mean for the state’s once-a-decade redistricting process.

According to Dave Wasserman, House editor of the Cook Political Report, weak census numbers downstate could help Illinois Democrats “gerrymander even more aggressively” the new congressional map than previously possible.

Of course, it is just a hypothetical scenario. But, nobody doubts that Democrats in the General Assembly will draw a map to maximize their partisan advantage, just as they did when they passed and Gov. J.B Pritzker signed state legislative maps into law in June.

“They are going to draw a partisan, gerrymandered congressional map that will try to increase the Democrats’ power and decrease any Republican representation, even in Republican areas of the state,” said U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville. “We fully expect the Democrats to be as partisan and as vicious as possible in this process.”



U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, center, speaks during a press conference June 2 in Normal with state Rep. Dan Brady, left, and Sen. Jason Barickman.





Sierra Henry




Davis is widely viewed as one of the most vulnerable Republicans in a Democratic remap. Simply put, it’s not that difficult to either make his district so Democratic that it’s unwinnable or to draw him in with a more conservative colleague, such as Rep. Mary Miller, R-Oakland.

Democrats have been trying to defeat Davis ever since he was elected in 2012. And, anticipating a remap, there are already candidates lining up for the opportunity in 2022.

David Palmer, a retirement planning advisor with Country Financial and a former professional basketball player from Champaign, has already announced his candidacy.

And a political heavy hitter in both Springfield and Washington is taking a look at the race.

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Nikki Budzinski, who served as a senior to both Pritzker’s political campaign and administration before joining the Biden Administration as chief of staff for the Office of Management and Budget, is kicking the tires on a race.

Budzinski, a native of Peoria, left her role in Washington last month and moved back to Springfield.

Politico Illinois first reported that U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. discussed Budzinski’s potential move at a private party in Springfield Tuesday evening. Though Durbin did not mention Budzinski in his remarks before hundreds of Democrats at the Illinois Democratic County Chairs Association brunch Wednesday morning, his former state director, Bill Houlihan, confirmed that afternoon that discussions have taken place.

“She has indicated to the Senator and myself that she is very interested in running in (Illinois’ 13th Congressional District),” Houlihan, the chair of the Sangamon County Democratic Party, said. “She wants to know what the maps’ going to be. We don’t think the 13th is going to be drawn without Springfield in it because we’re losing a district and the district is going to come out of downstate. And so, she’s out doing the things you need to be doing: talking to county chairs, labor leaders and folks for fundraising.”

Before joining Pritzker’s orbit, Budzinski served as labor outreach director on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. She was also associate director of legislative and political action department for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union from 2008 to 2015. 

“(Durbin) knows Nikki very well and has appreciated all the work she’s done and is somebody that we think has a lot of talent,” Houlihan said.

One name that can be crossed off the list: former state Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, who resigned earlier this year to become a senior to Gov. JB Pritzker, the role Budzinski previously had before leaving for Washington. Manar has since been promoted to deputy governor.

“My interest in running is zero,” Manar said, speaking on the director’s lawn of the Illinois State Fairgrounds ahead of Governor’s Day festivities. “I’ve been on the governor’s team now since January and my priorities are Governor Pritzker’s continued priorities.”

The diagonally-shaped 13th district includes cities like Bloomington, Champaign, Decatur and Springfield that add an urban element to the otherwise rural constituency. Initially viewed as a swing district, it has moved away from the party in recent years.

However, with fewer seats to protect downstate, Democrats can consolidate their voters in the above cities while adding the Democratic bastions of Alton, Belleville and East St. Louis in the Metro East region.

Davis, who has left open a run for governor if the remap goes against him, said he isn’t sweating anything just yet.

“We’ll assess the political battlefield once the Democrats lay it out for us,” Davis said. “One thing I think the Democrats in Springfield and throughout Illinois understand about me: I’m not afraid to fight.”

“I fought Republicans and Democrats in one of the most competitive districts, not just in the state, (but) in the nation for the last 10 years,” he continued. “And remember, Democrats drew this district to elect a Democrat in 2011, and we’ve beaten them every time. So they know I’m okay and ready for a fight. We’ll assess what fight I’m going to be in once that map comes out.”

Beyond Davis, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon may also have reason to worry. Even if the prominent critic of former President Donald Trump survives a GOP primary, his home might be drawn into a district based in the growing Chicago suburbs and exurbs, which have a more Democratic tilt. 

As retired political science professor Kent Redfield told me last week, shifts in the state’s voting patterns tend to favor Democrats, who are growing their base in the Chicago area while Republicans grow in rural downstate. 

Though the GOP’s growth downstate is nothing to sneeze at, it’s a bigger slice of a smaller pie. And it’s a tradeoff the supermajority Democrats are fine making.


Lee Enterprises’ Illinois state government reporter Brenden Moore and Central Illinois food and drink reporter Donnette Beckett went out to th…

Lee Enterprises’ Illinois state government reporter Brenden Moore and Central Illinois food and drink reporter Donnette Beckett went out to th…

Lee Enterprises’ Illinois state government reporter Brenden Moore and Central Illinois food and drink reporter Donnette Beckett went out to th…

Lee Enterprises’ Illinois state government reporter Brenden Moore and Central Illinois food and drink reporter Donnette Beckett went out to th…

Lee Enterprises’ Illinois state government reporter Brenden Moore and Central Illinois food and drink reporter Donnette Beckett went out to th…

Lee Enterprises’ Illinois state government reporter Brenden Moore and Central Illinois food and drink reporter Donnette Beckett went out to th…

Lee Enterprises’ Illinois state government reporter Brenden Moore and Central Illinois food and drink reporter Donnette Beckett went out to th…

Lee Enterprises’ Illinois state government reporter Brenden Moore and Central Illinois food and drink reporter Donnette Beckett went out to th…

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August 18, 2021 at 05:32PM

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