Election Day forecast: Illinois statehouse reporter Brenden Moore’s predictions (copy)


Gov. J.B. Pritzker makes campaign stop in Springfield with less than two weeks until Election Day.

SPRINGFIELD — Earlier this year, what once seemed like an inevitably good year for Republicans was thrown out of whack by the Supreme Court decision reversing Roe v. Wade, which ended the constitutional right to an abortion.

Democrats started to believe that they could defy political gravity and avoid the electoral malaise that usually greets the president’s party in a midterm election.

I wrote in September that “Illinois Republicans may need to hope for a course correction on the national climate” if they wanted to see their fortunes fulfilled in November.

Well, it seems they got one.

As the Roe decision faded further into the rearview mirror and gas prices — falling for months after hitting record highs this summer — started to creep up again, so did Republican poll numbers.

Nationally, the party is favored to take back the U.S. House and has a strong chance to win back the U.S. Senate.

And the GOP is pressing deeper into Democratic territory too, making stronger-than-expected challenges in governor’s races in reliably blue states like New York and Oregon, where abortion largely is a settled issue.

Illinois fits the bill of a relatively Democratic state. Could there be a similar red surge here?

Anything can happen. But, it’s unlikely at the top of the ticket. In some close congressional and state legislative races, however, any momentum towards Republicans could prove decisive.

For nearly three decades, my former colleague Bernie Schoenburg would offer pre-election predictions in his political column in The State Journal-Register, the daily newspaper in Illinois’ capital city. He retired in November 2020 and I left the paper in January 2021 for my current job.

Since I’ve been with Lee Newspapers, I’ve been afforded space in this weekly column to add analysis and perspective that does not always show up in day-to-day news coverage of Illinois politics and government. The goal, of course, is to cut through the noise to the root of a topic.

As such, I am piggybacking off Bernie’s tradition and offering predictions in some key races. These are not endorsements — simply a forecast based on all the information before us along with anecdotal evidence picked up from reporting on several of these races firsthand.

Please, hold my feet to the fire if I’m wrong.

Before diving in further, I encourage all who can to exercise their right to vote. Many have already voted early or by mail, and options are available up until Election Day. Whatever method you choose, it’s important to a functioning democracy that the body politic be engaged in the process.

Topping the ticket is the Illinois governor’s race.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has had quite a first term, which started with a frenetic flurry of legislating before he was thrust into a role akin to a wartime leader with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Gov. J.B. Pritzker, left, and state Rep. Darren Bailey will face off in the Illinois governor’s race this November.


Illinois had racked up more than $16 billion in unpaid bills and held the nation’s worst credit rating by the time Pritzker entered office.

Though the latter remains true, the state’s rating has since been upgraded six times and the backlog has essentially been paid down. 

He faced criticism for what some viewed as a heavy-handed response to the pandemic. He enforced strict capacity restrictions on businesses and limits on in-person learning in schools. Mask mandates stayed in place longer here than elsewhere. 

This is in part what led to Republican nominee Darren Bailey’s rise to prominence. A downstate farmer and relatively new state legislator, Bailey became the face of opposition to Pritzker’s COVID-19 restrictions in a series of high-profile lawsuits. 

Since entering the race, Bailey has turned his focus to the rise in violent crime across the state since 2020 and has been a voice for conservatives who may feel forgotten in an increasingly blue state. 

However, Bailey has struggled to find his footing since his primary victory. His conservative positions on abortion and gun rights have been highlighted extensively in negative ads from Pritzker’s campaign.

And the candidate has drawn headlines for repeatedly calling Chicago a “hellhole” and for past controversial statements.

Bailey has also been at a significant financial disadvantage against billionaire Pritzker, limiting his ability to counter the incumbent’s messaging. 

It’s shaping up to be a Republican wave year nationally. But not in Illinois. 

Pritzker, I think, will win relatively comfortably, though perhaps not by as much as some polls suggest given the electoral climate.

Illinois leans Democratic and, with a legislative record that includes a minimum wage increase, recreational marijuana legalization and a plan to achieve 100% clean energy production by 2050, Democratic base voters have little to complain about with Pritzker. His stewardship of the state’s finances should appeal to moderate voters.

That should be enough. There are likely not enough conservative voters in Illinois for Bailey to win with the conservative policy positions he holds. 

If the Republican wins, it would be a colossal upset. 

The same goes in the race for U.S. Senate, which features Democratic incumbent Tammy Duckworth and Republican Kathy Salvi, an attorney from north suburban Mundelein. 

Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran who lost her legs and partial use of her right arm while serving in that conflict, will likely coast to a second six-year term over the underfunded Salvi, who has struggled during the campaign to explain where she stands on issues beyond common Republican talking points. 


U.S. Senate Photographic Studio-Renee Bouchard

In the races for Illinois’ other statewide constitutional offices, I predict a Democratic sweep. Simply put, voters do not split their tickets the way they used to. 

Also on the ballot for all Illinois voters is Amendment 1, which would enshrine the right to organize and bargain over wages, hours and working conditions as fundamental in the state constitution.  

The measure needs either 60% of those who vote on the question or a simple majority of those who cast a ballot in the election. 

The state’s powerful labor unions have poured more than $15 million into the campaign supporting the amendment.

A group encouraging a “no” vote sprung up in September and has received more than $2 million from conservative billionaire Richard Uihlein.

Too little too late. I think it will pass easily — with decent Republican support too, especially in union-heavy areas downstate.

Things get more interesting down the ballot.

The 13th Congressional District features Democrat Nikki Budzinski, a former adviser to Pritzker who worked in President Joe Biden’s administration, and Regan Deering, a philanthropist and community activist who is a scion of the family that ran Archer Daniels Midland for four decades. 

Nikki Budzinski and Regan Deering.

The district, which stretches from East St. Louis to Champaign-Urbana and includes Decatur and Springfield, leans Democratic but not overwhelmingly so.

Though viewed by many to be winnable for a Republican in this type of electoral climate, the party has not invested outside resources in the race, leaving Deering to fend for herself. 

I think Budzinski, who has run a solid if unspectacular campaign, will win the tight race, though I would not be shocked if Deering pulls it out. 

In the 17th Congressional District, will the second time be the charm for Republican Esther Joy King?

King came within four percentage points of knocking off Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-East Moline, in 2020. With the incumbent retiring, she now faces Democrat Eric Sorensen, a former television meteorologist.

The C-shaped district includes Bloomington-Normal, Peoria, the Quad Cities and Rockford. The district is viewed as the most pure “tossup” of any congressional seat in Illinois. 

This race will likely blow whichever way the national climate goes. As a result, I think voters will send King to Congress. 

Eric Sorensen and Esther Joy King.

In Illinois’ 12th, 15th and 16th congressional districts, the June primary was tantamount to the general election. Incumbent Republican Reps. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro; Mary Miller, R-Oakland; and Darin LaHood, R-Peoria, will all win, I believe, without breaking a sweat against Democrats Homer “Chip” Markel, Paul Lange and Elizabeth Haderlein, respectively. 

In the Illinois General Assembly, expect Democrats to maintain their majorities, though they could lose seats, especially in the Senate.

In the upper chamber, there are several key races, the most expensive being the barnburner in the 48th District between state Sen. Doris Turner, D-Springfield, and state Rep. Sandy Hamilton, R-Springfield. 

Another is in the 56th Senate District in the Metro East region featuring state Sen. Kris Tharp, D-Bethalto, and Republican Erica Harriss.

Both will be close, though I expect Hamilton and Harriss to eke out victories over the appointed Democratic incumbents.

The 36th Senate District features state Rep. Michael Halpin, D-Rock Island, against Republican Mike Thoms, the mayor of Rock Island. I’ll give Halpin the edge, though a Thoms victory would not be surprising in the least. 

Though much of the battleground in the House is in the Chicago suburbs, there are some downstate races drawing attention. 

In the 91st House District, which includes most of Bloomington-Normal, Democrat Sharon Chung, a McLean County Board member, faces Republican Scott Preston, a Normal Town Council member. 

It will be close, but I believe Chung pulls it out to become the first Asian American to be elected to the General Assembly from McLean County. 

In the 96th House District, state Rep. Sue Scherer, D-Decatur, is poised to win another term against Republican Lisa Smith, a doctor. 

The 112th House District featuring state Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville and Republican challenger Jennifer Korte could go either way. But Stuart pulls it out, I think. 

And before I forget, the Illinois Supreme Court. There are two open seats that could swing the balance from Democrats to Republicans. It’s a real possibility.

The two suburban-based court districts lean Democratic but not overwhelmingly so.

Republican Justice Michael Burke is taking on Democratic Judge Mary Kay O’Brien while Republican Mark Curran, the former Lake County Sheriff, takes on Democratic Judge Liz Rochford. 

My guess is that Rochford beats Curran while Burke defeats O’Brien, which would result in a 4-3 Democratic majority. 

But, it will be close, so don’t be surprised if both Democrats win and swing the court 5-2 in favor their party or if both Republicans win and secure a 4-3 majority for their party. 

This is a race where the abortion issue could actually factor in significantly.

Contact Brenden Moore at 217-421-7984. Follow him on Twitter: @brendenmoore13

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November 2, 2022 at 10:48PM

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