Illinois politics: The contests that matter most in November 2022 – Crain’s Chicago Business

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Greg Hinz on Politics: Three contests that matter most in the sprint to November

j.b. pritzker darren bailey
Photo: Getty/Crain’s illustration

 

Labor Day now having passed, we’re officially in the stretch run of the 2022 general election.

There’s far too much on the ballot to write about without inducing insomnia, from contests for the U.S. Senate, statewide offices and congressional seats to local issues and referendums. So let me narrow it down a bit to three that are particularly important. 

The state’s top government job belongs to J.B. Pritzker. The incumbent governor is seeking a new term, and the question is whether voters ought to give him another shot or turn to the GOP nominee, state Sen. Darren Bailey of Xenia.

On paper, Pritzker would be the favorite—even if his personal wealth didn’t allow him to spend whatever it takes, and even if Bailey wasn’t so far to the political right that much of the city’s GOP business establishment has written him off. Pritzker has been able to balance the budget, begin restoring the state’s credit rating, preside over an economy that’s growing nicely after COVID and stand strong on issues such as abortion rights and same-sex marriage. He has a record.

RELATED: Darren Bailey internet posts shine brighter light on candidate’s cultural views

But the record isn’t perfect. State pension costs remain staggering. Federal COVID-19 relief funds that played a key role in balancing the budget soon will be gone. A series of management blunders, from deaths at a veterans home to continuing woes at the state’s child welfare agency, leave him open to attack. Job growth lags that of other states. Worst of all for the incumbent, rising crime rates are the kind of issue that drives voters bonkers, even if the governor—any governor—has only limited control of the matter.

Can Bailey use that issue to claw his way back into the race? He’s trying. 

Second on my list are races for Congress. 

Given that this was supposed to be a big Republican year, and given that Springfield Democrats who drafted the new districts really stretched to maximize their potential gain, you might think the Democrats would be sweating. Well, they are. I’ve heard a lot lately from allies of Rep. Bill Foster, D-Geneva, whose district lost a lot of Latinos in the remap to the new 3rd District, making it less blue. But the Democrats aren’t sweating the way they were a couple of months ago.

North suburban incumbent Brad Schneider seems safe; the National Republican Congressional Committee, the House GOP’s campaign arm, hasn’t even put his foe on their watch list. Ditto Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Schaumburg. The NRCC has tapped Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau for its top Young Guns program against Democratic Rep. Sean Casten, with foes to Foster and Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Crystal Lake, in line for lesser On the Radar aid.

RELATED: What we learned from the 2022 Illinois primary election

We’ll see what comes of that. Meanwhile, national handicapper Cook Political Reports lists Casten’s district as “lean Democratic,” with Foster and Underwood “likely Democrat.” If you really want to find a bang-bang, super-competitive district, you’ll probably have to go out to the Quad Cities-area seat that Cheri Bustos is vacating. Still, in a year with lots of ups and downs, it’s a little early to stash away anyone’s crystal ball ’cause things could change again.

Then there’s a proposed amendment to the Illinois Constitution dealing with worker rights. In theory, it’s designed to guarantee the right of workers to organize and engage in collective bargaining. It may or may not do that, but Springfield Democrats put the measure on the ballot in large part to spur turnout from their base in November.

I’ll take a closer look at the proposed amendment in a future column. But the core of the measure is a clause that would prevent Illinois from becoming a so-called right-to-work state, one in which lawmakers could ban contracts that require workers to join a union. Labor views this as an existential issue, a needed step to protect itself from Alabama- (or Bruce Rauner-) style union busting. Business says this is about making Illinois economically competitive again.

Keep your eye on all of that—and on two races that will determine control of the Illinois Supreme Court. More to come.

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September 9, 2022 at 08:57AM

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