As we mentioned earlier, low turnout today
has the potential to destabilize competitive races across the state. Yet
even with the increased level of uncertainty, some candidates still
seem close to a sure thing.
Cheri Bustos, who is running the Democratic primary for Illinois’ 17th Congressional District, is such a candidate.
a healthcare consultant and former East Moline city councilwoman, is
running against two opponents, Freeport mayor George Gaulrapp and
college administrator Greg Aguilar, for the right to take on freshman
Tea Party Republican Bobby Schilling in the general election this
November. In light of the recent redistricting plan passed by the state
legislation, Democratic analysts have identified the 17th as among the
most vulnerable Republican seats nationwide.
Such a promising opportunity for a general election challenge would seem to invite a close primary race among qualified candidates. And indeed, Bustos and Gaulrapp have split most of the local newspaper endorsements in the district. The Peoria Journal Star also reports that all three candidates have similar approaches to policy.
In spite of these factors, however, Bustos heads into tonight’s ballot count as a clear favorite to finish far ahead of the pack. The reason? Money.
Bustos has used her connections to national women’s organizations and private sector companies to raise more than $400,000 over the course of the campaign. If that sounds impressive as a stand-alone figure, it becomes even more staggering in comparative terms. Gaulrapp, for instance, has raised just over $16,000; Aguilar, less than half that.
Despite her overwhelming financial advantage, Bustos wasn’t taking any chances today.
"I’m excited about the possibility and I hope everything terms out well,” she told PI earlier this afternoon. “Our entire team has worked their absolute hardest, we’ve run an honorable campaign and I’m very proud of that.”
Nevertheless, when asked how she felt election day was going, her reply was cautious: “Ask me in 24 hours and I’ll tell you exactly how it went.”
As political rhetoric, that answer is sound. Yet the reality of the race does not invite such uncertainty. Some things cannot be overcome even by low turnout, and would seem quite likely that a 25 to 1 fundraising advantage in a state primary election is one of them.