CHICAGO (CN) — Voters in Illinois, which recently went through a tumultuous redistricting process in which it lost one of its 18 former congressional seats, were asked to parse a number of contests for control of the state’s new political maps during primary races Tuesday.
These included races for judges, state and federal representatives, numerous government offices and the governor’s office itself, currently held by Democrat J.B. Pritzker. Not all these races were competitive; several incumbent congressional representatives ran unopposed in their new districts.
But in other congressional districts, specifically the redrawn 1st, 6th and 15th districts, the competition between primary candidates indicated both major parties’ internecine conflicts.
“It is … worth noting that all three races illustrate the ideological divisions within and between parties,” said Robert Evans, a professor of business and political science at Illinois’ Rockford University, in an interview earlier this month.
In the 1st Congressional District, covering much of Chicago’s South Side, over 20 candidates faced off to claim the seat of now-retired Bobby Rush. Rush controlled the district for almost 30 years — at one point beating a primary challenge by Barack Obama by over 30 points — before announcing in January he would not seek reelection in 2022.
The power vacuum left by his departure has attracted some big names eager to represent one of the most loyally Democratic districts in the state, as well as one of only three of its majority-Black districts. Candidates included Chicago City Council member Pat Dowell and the more left-leaning local activist Jahmal Cole, founder of the Chicago community organizing nonprofit My Block My Hood My City.
The new 1st District is an even more important Black vote in the wake of redistricting, as the adjacent new 2nd District will take on the whiter, suburban areas south of Chicago this November, and may not have the same Black majority as its current iteration.
“When there are fewer seats, the competition for those seats gets fiercer,” Evans said.
As of 7:30 p.m. Central time, Karin Norington-Reaves led the Democratic primary in the 1st District with roughly 27% of the vote, or 812 votes total. Norington-Reaves has a history of work in both the public and private sectors, having previously served as Chicago’s 20th Ward Chief of Staff and as the executive director of Teach for America Chicago.
Norington-Reaves was surpassed in the Democratic primary around 8:25 p.m. by both Pat Dowell and Jonathan Jackson, son of the legendary Chicago progressive figure Reverend Jesse Jackson. With over 25% of precincts reporting, Jackson had a respectable lead in the district with roughly 27.4% of the tally, or about 8,400 votes. Dowell followed with about 18.3% of the total vote and Norington-Reaves trailed in third with about 15%.
Jackson maintained his lead through the night before finally securing a solid victory around 10:45 p.m. With over 55% of all the 1st District’s precincts reporting at the time, Jackson took home about 28% of the total vote tally. Pat Dowell came in second with about 19.3% of the vote and Karin Norington-Reaves was third at about 14.1%.
Norington-Reaves actually proved the most popular candidate in Illinois’ Will and Kankakee Counties through which the 1st District stretches, but she couldn’t overcome the numerical superiority of Cook County, where Jackson led decisively. Dowell split the difference in all three counties.
In her concession statement, the Chicago City Council member urged voters in the 1st District to continue fighting for voting, racial justice, abortion and LGBTQ rights.
“As our ancestors have done before us, we must once again, rise and fight for our rights,” Dowell wrote.
In the adjacent 6th District, stretching from the Southwest Side of Chicago into the city’s western suburbs, incumbent Sean Casten faced a challenge from relative newcomer Marie Newman. Though both are Democrats, they represent different factions within the party.