As election season heats up, the battle for control of Congress may come down to the outcome of several key races in Illinois.
With polls indicating President Barack Obama will more than likely win re-election and Democrats projected to maintain a majority in the U.S. Senate, Democratic leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives are hopeful they can achieve a net gain of 25 seats in order to provide the President with a Democratic-controlled Congress going into a second term.
A total of six House seats in Illinois, five of which are currently held by Republicans, have the potential of falling into Democratic hands. Contests in the 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th and 17th congressional districts are considered statistically close, with most either considered tied or within margins that separate the candidates by only a few percentage points.
The one race that does appear to be a sure win for Democrats in Illinois, at this point, has also received the most attention throughout the campaign.
In a recent poll conducted by Public Policy Polling, 8th Congressional District Democratic candidate Tammy Duckworth, of Hoffman Estates, holds a sizeable lead over Tea Party incumbent U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-McHenry) at 52 percent to 38 percent.
Walsh, who won the seat in 2010, was one of a number of Tea Party-backed candidates who were elected to office that year, which gave Republicans control of the House for the first time since 2006.
Projections, however, have shown Walsh to be in danger of losing his seat since last year when Illinois Democrats redrew several congressional districts, which resulted in an increase of Democratic-leaning voters within his district.
Intent on appearing to be the rational alternative to Walsh, Duckworth met with about 20 constituents at a recent campaign tour stop held at a residence in Schaumburg to explain why she would take a more bipartisan approach to solving problems.
“It’s very attractive to follow that extreme rhetoric on either side,” Duckworth said. “There are extreme wings of my own party who want to say that all Republicans are heartless and don’t care about people. That’s not true, it’s somewhere in the middle and we have to find folks who are more willing to work with one another.”
Here’s more from Duckworth as she talks about the kind of legislator she intends to be if elected:
Duckworth’s call for more compromise was one that resonated with those who attended the event, such as Schaumburg resident Sharon Ogorzalek, who said she was hopeful electing Duckworth and other similar-minded individuals would help to make Congress become more productive.
“I believe in compromise,” Ogorzalek said. “I feel very strongly that she has the ability to listen to others and compromise. I think we have had too much ‘my-way-or-the-highway’ attitude in D.C.”
Staci McCabe, spokeswoman for 10th Congressional District Democratic candidate Brad Schneider’s campaign, said constituents are better served when they have representatives who are not so extreme in their views that it prohibits them from attempting to compromise with those who have differing ideas or beliefs.
“People are looking for moderate candidates, for leaders who are willing to work together, regardless of party, to get things done, which is why folks are eager to get rid of Congressman [Robert] Dold who has backed the Republican agenda on every key vote,” McCabe explained. “On every one, from ending the Medicare guarantee to defunding Planned Parenthood, Congressman Dold voted in lock step with the Tea Party agenda."
Whether the desire for more bipartisanship translates into Democratic wins remains to be seen, said Democratic Party of Illinois spokesman Steve Brown, who adds that election outcomes are more likely to come down to who ran a better campaign as opposed to any kind of potential Tea Party backlash.
Based on what he has observed thus far in this election season, however, Brown said a lot of the more conservative candidates throughout the state appear to be facing tougher races this time around when compared to two years ago. “I think in the congressional races where you have seen public polling, I can’t think of anywhere, to any significant degree, where a conservative candidate was doing all that well,” he said.
Meanwhile, most analysts don’t give House Democrats much of a chance of picking up enough seats to regain a majority, with some projecting net gains of about eight to 10 seats.
One major obstacle lies in the congressional races going on in other states where, much like what happened in Illinois at the hands of Democrats, GOP-led legislatures redrew their congressional maps to include more Republican voters in what were once considered Democratic strongholds.