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Wednesday, June 19, 2024 | Back issues
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Trump-endorsed Mary Miller wins Illinois GOP House primary

Despite previously calling the rollback of abortion rights a “victory for white life” and previously praising an Adolf Hitler quote, Miller won her primary in Illinois’ right-wing 15th District.

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.


Casten, representing the district since 2018, is more moderate and enjoys the institutional clout of organizations like the Chicago Tribune and the electrical workers’ union. Newman is a progressive with the backing of other left-leaning Democratic representatives, including Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib and Washington state’s Pramila Jayapal. She’s also the former representative of the now-redrawn 3rd District, having won her seat in 2020 by displacing Dan Lipinski, a conservative Democrat who had represented the district since 2005.

The pair are casualties of the state’s redistricting process. When Illinois was forced to give up one of its 18 congressional seats per the results of the 2020 Census, Democrats moved to secure the Latino vote in northern Illinois by redrawing the 3rd District into a new, Latino-majority district. Latino Illinoisans composed about 19% of the state’s total population in 2020, so Democrats decided to have two newcomer white representatives square off for the redrawn 6th District instead of pitting Newman against fellow progressive Jesús “Chuy” García, who represents the neighboring Latino-majority 4th District.

Casten took an early lead over Newman on Tuesday night. As of 7:30 p.m., with 5% of all votes tallied in the District, Casten had won over 89% of the vote, about 4,500 votes total. Newman lagged at around 500 votes — about 10% of the total count.

Casten kept that lead through the night. The Cook County Board of Elections reported Casten winning in the county — with over 91% of the county's poll locations reporting, he took 53.6% of the vote. Newman trailed at 42.6%.

"Unfortunately, we did not get the result we were looking for this evening," Newman said in a statement conceding the race. Despite here loss, she also endorsed Casten for the general election in November.

"I respect my colleague Congressman Casten for his proven commitment to the people of this district and I give him my full endorsement for reelection in November," Newman wrote.

South of Chicago, two Republican representatives have also been pushed into conflict by the state’s redistricting. The new 15th District has moved west and north from its old borders, and incumbent Mary Miller now faces the displaced Rodney Davis, former representative of the 13th District.

Davis has represented the old 13th District since 2013, but during the redistricting process the Democrat-controlled state legislature shrank it to exclude much of its former, conservative rural territory. The new 13th is a thin corridor connecting Illinois’ mid-state cities, from East St. Louis to Springfield and Champaign-Urbana, and is expected to flip blue. Rather than trying to run for reelection in the new 13th, Davis instead opted to challenge Miller for the whiter, Trumpier 15th District.

Though both candidates claimed former president Donald Trump’s support at different points in their campaigns — Davis even co-chaired Trump’s 2020 Illinois campaign — the former president ultimately gave his endorsement to Miller, who has represented the 15th District since 2020. Trump attended one of her rallies last Saturday night, where Miller thanked Trump for the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Miller called the end of national abortion rights a “victory for white life” at the rally, and while her spokesman Isaiah Wartman later said she misread her notes and meant to say “right to life,” the comment earned her cheers from the crowd regardless. Miller also attracted criticism in January 2021 for praising Adolf Hitler.

“If we win a few elections, we’re still going to be losing unless we win the hearts and minds of our children. This is the battle,” Miller said at a January 2021 rally in Washington D.C. for the conservative women’s group Moms for America. “Hitler was right on one thing. He said, ‘Whoever has the youth has the future.’”

As of 9:30 p.m., with 77% of polling locations reporting in the district, Miller had cemented her win with 57% of the vote, while David garnered 43% of it.

In the state's gubernatorial race, incumbent Governor J.B. Pritzker unsurprisingly won outright in the Democratic primary with almost 466,000 votes, about 93% of the total ote as of 8:30 p.m.. His only challenger, Beverly Miles, barely broke 7%. The more crowded Republican primary saw Darren Bailey, a GOP member of the Illinois state Senate, win over close challenger Richard Irvin. Billionaire Ken Griffin boosted Irvin for the governor's seat to the tune of $50 million, but in the end Bailey had secured almost 55% of the vote — roughly 166,000 votes total — by 8:30 p.m. with over a third of precincts reporting. Irvin only managed to secure a distant third with a little over 16% of the vote.

Though Griffin pumped his campaign with millions, Irvin criticized Pritzker for his own wealth in his concession statement on Tuesday.

“The Illinois Governor's race is already the most expensive race in the country. Half the money spent in Illinois this year has been spent by Democrats meddling in our Republican primary to boost Darren Bailey,” Irvin wrote.

Despite the attack on Bailey, he ended his statement by wishing him luck in November.

“We wish Darren Bailey well as he moves on to the General Election,” Irvin wrote.

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