The 2018 General Election resulted in a significant shift to the Illinois State Legislature, with Democrats picking up three seats in the Senate and a net of seven seats in the House. Many of these seats will again be competitive in the 2020 election cycle, and several deserve extra scrutiny. For more analysis on these 2018 election shifts, click here.
"Here’s a sweeping look at some of the races we’ll be watching over the next 11 months."
In the first few election cycles of the next decade, the issue of population decline will be at the forefront for both the state and city of Chicago, with remapping legislative districts and aldermanic wards likely to create legal and political battles.
Census & Remapping the Next Decade
The upcoming census in 2021 poses significant financial, political, and demographic issues for Illinois with billions of dollars in federal funds at stake, congressional, legislative, and municipal districts being merged and redrawn, and minority populations at risk of not being represented.
With the start of a new decade and population shifts since 2010, there are numerous opportunities for changes to political maps regarding congressional, state legislative, and municipal districts. Given the balance of population declines in Chicago and increases in its suburbs, Congressional districts may not be merged in that region as much as downstate and southern Illinois with Districts 15 and 16 or Districts 13 and 18 at risk of merger. State legislative districts may also see similar changes...
Even the new Chicago Mayor, Lori Lightfoot, has indicated potential changes for Chicago wards...
And during an early 2020 transition in Senate democratic leadership, the two top candidates for Senate president were asked their positions on redistricting, with Sen. Don Harmon being the eventual winner, but also with Sen. Kimberly Lightford retaining her number two Majority Leader position...
The Art of Legislative Vacancies
The significant fluctuation of political party control of various legislative seats since 2016 have been matched by the political appointment process for legislative vacancies.
The rationale for utilizing the weighted votes of a few political executives in a jurisdiction rather than a special election may be justified by potential costs...
Vacancies may also be filled through the political party nomination process after primaries...
2019 Chicago Mayoral & Aldermanic Elections
Nearly all of the Democratic gains in the 2018 General Election were in the the counties surrounding Chicago, which remains the core of the Democratic Party in Illinois. As a result, the 101st General Assembly may also be impacted by the 2019 municipal elections in Chicago, which originally had over 20 candidates running for an open mayoral seat and nearly all 50 wards with at least two candidates. The mayoral race as well as numerous aldermanic races required an April runoff due to candidates not reaching the fifty percent threshold; click below for more information.
Illinois Voting History by County & Districts
Illinois electoral history leading up to recent pendulum shifts in the legislature includes a decade of fairly consistent voting patterns among the 102 counties in Illinois. This history also provides a backdrop to highlight the solidifying of Republican preferences in central and southern Illinois as well as potential Democratic preferences beyond the Chicagoland area.
Between 2004 and 2014, Illinois voters throughout the 102 counties were fairly consistent when going to the voting booth and choosing between the Republican (red) and Democratic (blue) candidate for a statewide or national office. Some of that consistency also meant that in many counties, the voting result averages were within a couple percentage points of swinging to one party or the other (purple). For county voting data, click here.
County Election Maps (2004-2014)
Although the 2014 and 2016 election cycles shifted some of the state political map in favor of the Republican party, the 2018 General Election reversed those trends and resulted in additional control for the state Democratic party in both chambers of the legislature as well as every state constitutional office. As with every election, it is also important to watch for the evolution of political alliances within each party.
State Legislative Election Maps (2015-2019)
2018 Targeted Legislative District History & Spending
At least 37 legislative races were a target for either the Democratic or Republican party at one point during the 2018 election cycle. One initial factor for target districts was whether they were either:
- Held by a Republican where voters supported Hillary Clinton (D) for president in 2016, or
- Held by a Democrat where voters supported Bruce Rauner (R) for his first-term as governor in 2014.
Tracking the voting preference of residents in a particular district helps to see how districts are targeted while continued tracking of campaign spending and the eventual get-out-the-vote (GOTV) results further educates those who are watching as to where polling or interest groups are expecting a tight race. As with any campaign strategy, hard decisions have to be made with the investment of time and money, and a hindsight review of those numbers can reveal where decisions were rewarded or opportunities were missed.