9 Democratic Primaries To Watch In Illinois And New York
By the end of the day on Tuesday, 29.5 states — why do you always have to make things difficult, New York? — will have held their 2022 primary elections. But we still have to get through Tuesday first! On June 28, voters in Colorado, Illinois, New York, Oklahoma and Utah head to the polls (or mail in their ballots) for primaries; Mississippi and South Carolina will also hold runoff elections; and Nebraska will even be holding a special election.
There are dozens of races to watch, so we’ll be bringing them to you in two parts, starting with all the Democratic primaries of note on the ballot this week. And there’s truly something for everyone: an incumbent running against an incumbent. Several progressive-versus-moderate skirmishes. The cryptocurrency industry trying to pick sides. Multiple chances to elect new female, nonwhite or LGBT candidates to Congress. Let’s dive right in!
Races to watch: 1st, 3rd, 6th, 7th, 8th, 13th and 17th congressional districts
Polls close: 8 p.m. Eastern
At least one, and possibly as many as three, Democratic incumbent U.S. representatives from Illinois will go down in defeat on Tuesday. The one guaranteed loss will come in the 6th District, where two incumbents — Reps. Sean Casten and Marie Newman — are vying for the same seat. After redistricting radically redrew the Chicago suburbs, Newman (who currently represents the 3rd District) found her home placed in the new 4th District — but a plurality of her current constituents live in the new 6th, so that’s where she decided to run for reelection. (Members of Congress do not have to live in the district they represent.)
Casten is in the opposite situation; he lives in the new 6th, but only a fraction of his current constituents have stayed there with him. In all, 41 percent of the new 6th District are Newman constituents, while only 23 percent are Casten constituents, which (ironically) gives her the appearance of home-field advantage.
However, among people likely to vote in a Democratic primary, Newman’s advantage isn’t as large. Thirty-six percent of 6th District residents who voted for President Biden in 2020 are Newman constituents, while 28 percent are Casten constituents. And a lot of those Newman constituents might not even be big fans of hers. Newman got to Congress in 2020 by primarying former Rep. Dan Lipinski, a conservative Democrat. And according to local analyst William Xin, the parts of her old district that are in the new 6th actually voted for Lipinski in that primary.
Both Newman and Casten have very liberal voting records, but in the primary Newman is again positioning herself as the more progressive option. For example, Casten has long prioritized climate change and has been endorsed by the League of Conservation Voters, but only Newman supports the Green New Deal. And while Casten has a perfect rating from abortion-rights groups, Newman has contrasted her personal experience of getting an abortion in the 1980s with Casten’s past vote for “anti-choice” Republican President George H.W. Bush.
Meanwhile, Casten’s supporters have attacked Newman for a bribery scandal that emerged out of her 2020 campaign. According to the Office of Congressional Ethics, there is “substantial reason to believe” that Newman offered one of her opponents a job in her congressional office in exchange for dropping out of the campaign (which he did), a potential violation of federal law. Casten has the financial advantage, too: He’s raised $3.2 million for his campaign, while Newman has taken in just $1.5 million.
Amid all the mudslinging, this is still an unpredictable primary, though. The most recent poll we have is from over a month ago; it gave Casten a 36 percent to 27 percent lead, but it was also sponsored by the Casten campaign. Given that internal polls are usually too good to be true for their sponsors, this race is best thought of as a toss-up.
Two other Chicago-area districts feature the type of Democratic primary we are more accustomed to: a single incumbent vs. a progressive insurgent. There are no public polls in either race, but the tea leaves suggest that the more serious challenge is probably in the 7th District, where 31-year-old activist Kina Collins is taking on 13-term Rep. Danny Davis. Davis has previously courted controversy with comments praising anti-Semitic Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, but he defeated Collins handily in their first primary tangle in 2020, 60 percent to 14 percent.
Unlike in 2020, though, Collins is going into election day with a financial advantage: Not only has she outraised Davis $613,417 to $459,186, but perhaps more importantly, she had outspent him almost 4-to-1 as of June 8 (however, Davis still had plenty of money in the bank at that time that he may have deployed since). The progressive group Justice Democrats has also spent $290,000 on Collins’s behalf.
Over in the 8th District, businessman Junaid Ahmed has raised an even more impressive $1.1 million — but his opponent, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, has reeled in a whopping $6.5 million (and he’s been spending it too). Another sign that Ahmed faces an uphill battle: Only one major progressive group, Our Revolution, has stuck its neck out for him, while at least three (Justice Democrats, Indivisible and the Sunrise Movement) have endorsed Collins in the 7th, suggesting they may sense a better opportunity there.
The remaining Democratic primaries to watch in the Land of Lincoln are open seats — including two safely Democratic seats where the primary will effectively determine their next representative. First up is (appropriately) the 1st District, a majority-Black seat on the South Side of Chicago. The seat has a storied past: In 1928, it became the first district outside the South to elect a Black representative, and for almost two decades hence the 1st District’s representative was the only Black member of Congress. The district has had a Black representative ever since, and that streak will almost certainly continue with its new representative in 2023.
The only question is who it will be. The open seat has attracted what feels like every ambitious politician on the South Side — 17 Democrats in all — and at least five of them have a legitimate chance of winning. Business owner and nonprofit leader Jonathan Swain is the top fundraiser, with $543,199; Chicago Alderman Pat Dowell is not far behind ($531,812) and entered the race with a ready-made campaign operation thanks to her prior campaign for secretary of state. Meanwhile, Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership CEO Karin Norington-Reaves snagged the endorsement of the district’s retiring incumbent, Rep. Bobby Rush, and has benefited from over $800,000 in super PAC spending, and longtime state Sen. Jacqueline Collins entered the race with the backing of several powerful Chicago and Springfield powerbrokers.
But the campaign has arguably most revolved around businessman Jonathan Jackson, the son of civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson and brother of former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who represented part of this district until his resignation due to scandal in 2012. Jackson has the benefit of not only his family name, but also the endorsements of major progressive figures like Sen. Bernie Sanders and Our Revolution. Two outside groups with ties to the cryptocurrency industry have also spent more than $1 million to help him get elected.
While each of these things may have downsides as well as upsides (for example, Norington-Reaves has tried to tie Jackson to the unpopular “defund the police” movement, and the cryptocurrency money drew attention to his failure to disclose his personal finances), Jackson will need only a small but vocal plurality in order to win in such a crowded field. And he might get it: A May internal poll from the Collins campaign listed Jackson in first place, with 19 percent, albeit within the margin of error.
The other safely Democratic open seat is also a majority-minority district — but in contrast to the 1st District, this one is brand new. The 3rd District was redrawn to be plurality-Hispanic, giving Chicago two predominantly Latino seats for the first time. As a result, for the first time, Illinois will almost certainly elect a second Hispanic representative, joining 4th District Rep. Chuy García.
Though there are four Democrats in the running, this primary is really just another progressive-versus-moderate showdown between state Rep. Delia Ramirez and Chicago Alderman Gilbert Villegas. Ramirez enjoys the support of a laundry list of progressive powerbrokers — Sanders, García, Sen. Elizabeth Warren — while Villegas has stressed the need to “reach across the aisle…to get things done.”
And the money is flying: Villegas has raised $949,927, while VoteVets (Villegas is a Marine Corps veteran) and Democratic Majority for Israel have combined to spend more than $1.1 million either for Villegas or against Ramirez. For her part, Ramirez has raised $616,213 and benefited from $1.6 million in outside spending from the likes of the Working Families Party and Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC. There hasn’t been a public poll since March, so either side could plausibly notch a win here.
Finally, Illinois Democrats will also pick nominees to go up against Republicans in a pair of competitive open seats. The primary doesn’t look all that competitive in the 13th District, where virtually the entire Illinois Democratic establishment (Sen. Dick Durbin, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Rep. Cheri Bustos) has lined up behind former Biden administration staffer Nikki Budzinski. Her sole competitor, financial advisor David Palmer, has raised a respectable amount of money ($208,300), but it’s still nowhere near Budzinski’s $1.7 million haul.
A moderate pragmatist who earns bipartisan praise, Budzinski should be a strong candidate for Democrats in their quest to flip this downstate seat from Republican control. It was radically redrawn to favor Democrats (spurring incumbent Republican Rep. Rodney Davis to seek reelection elsewhere), but with a FiveThirtyEight partisan lean1 of D+7, it still has the potential to be competitive in a Republican-leaning midterm.
Illinois’s most hotly contested House seat this fall will likely be the 17th District, a D+4 open seat in rapidly reddening northwestern Illinois. And some of the six candidates running in the Democratic primary, like Army veteran and Rockford Alderman Jonathan Logemann, have explicitly run on the argument that they are the most electable in the general election. Others, though — namely former state Rep. Litesa Wallace, who is endorsed by Our Revolution and Indivisible — haven’t been afraid to embrace progressive platform planks like the Green New Deal and single-payer health care. Former television meteorologist Eric Sorensen has also prioritized climate change in his campaign and has argued for the need for more “climate communicators” in Congress. Both Wallace, a Black woman, and Sorensen, who would be Illinois’s first openly gay congressman, would also add to the diversity of the House if elected.
The most recent poll of the primary — an internal survey from Wallace’s campaign — showed Wallace and Sorensen at the head of a fractured field, with 22 percent and 19 percent respectively. However, there are a couple reasons to give the edge to Sorensen here. First, of course, internal polls are often biased in favor of their sponsor. But second, that poll is almost two months old at this point, and Sorensen has had the financial advantage. He has raised ($450,665) and spent ($311,032) more than any other Democrat, and 314 Action — a group dedicated to electing more scientists to Congress — has also spent $615,160 on Sorensen’s behalf.
Races to watch: Governor, lieutenant governor
Polls close: 9 p.m. Eastern
New York was originally supposed to have a lot more primaries today, but its U.S. House primaries were rescheduled for Aug. 23 after a court struck down the state’s first pass at a congressional map, a strong partisan gerrymander drawn by Democratic legislators. (A new map was drawn by a neutral expert in late May, but one month wasn’t enough time to organize and pull off a smooth election.)
But statewide primaries remained a go for the original primary date of June 28, and at the top of the ballot is the Democratic primary for governor. When former Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned last August amid multiple allegations of sexual harassment, his lieutenant, Kathy Hochul, became the first female governor of New York — but multiple other ambitious New York politicians started eyeing the job, too. In October, Attorney General Letitia James announced she was running; in November, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Rep. Tom Suozzi declared their own campaigns.
But Hochul moved quickly to solidify her position. Her campaign claimed to have raised $10 million in her first three months in office, and she landed plum endorsements from EMILY’s List and the chair of the New York State Democratic Party. Trailing in the polls, James made the fateful decision in December to drop out of the race, relieving Hochul of her strongest rival but also potentially consolidating her opposition.
The final-ish map of new congressional districts | FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast
On paper, Williams had a lot to gain from James’s withdrawal. Both are progressives (although Williams is more of an activist outsider while James has played nice with the party establishment), while Hochul and Suozzi are moderates. Without James in the race, Williams is also the only candidate left who hails from vote-rich New York City, which cast 58 percent of the vote in the 2018 Democratic primary for governor. (Upstate New York,2 where the Buffalo-born Hochul is expected to perform well, cast 33 percent, while Suozzi’s base of Long Island cast 10 percent.) Finally, Williams, who would be New York’s first elected Black governor, is also the primary’s only nonwhite candidate.
However, it hasn’t come together for Williams, who has openly contemplated dropping out, too, amid his wife’s cancer diagnosis, a sparse campaign schedule and virtually empty campaign coffers. For his entire campaign, he has raised only $520,859 — a paltry sum in a state as expensive as New York. (By contrast, Hochul had raised $33.2 million as of June 13.) For his part, Suozzi had raised $9.8 million as of June 13, but he hasn’t attracted any high-profile endorsers that would help him distinguish himself from Hochul. The latest poll, conducted June 15-20 for WHEC-TV and WNYT-TV by SurveyUSA, gave Suozzi 18 percent and Williams 11 percent. But Hochul was still way ahead of them both, with 54 percent.
Instead, the real drama in New York may be in the lieutenant governor primary. Although the three candidates are each aligned with one of the three gubernatorial candidates, New York voters choose their party’s governor and lieutenant governor nominees in separate primaries, and then they run as a ticket in the general election. This has the potential to create an awkward situation not only in the fall campaign, but for the next four years in Albany.
Former Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin, whom Hochul tapped to replace herself after becoming governor, started off as the presumed front-runner — but just two months ago, he was arrested on bribery charges and resigned from office. Consequently, Hochul appointed then-Rep. Antonio Delgado to be her new number two, but the legislature had to change the law in order to allow him to take Benjamin’s place on the ballot.
As a result, Delgado has had to play catch-up to progressive activist Ana María Archila (who is aligned with Williams) and former Deputy Brooklyn Borough President Diana Reyna (who is aligned with Suozzi). While Delgado has the most money (including $2 million transferred from his congressional campaign account), it is not the same overwhelming advantage that Hochul has, and Archila has tried to broaden her appeal beyond just Williams supporters. She has held more campaign events and earned more endorsements than Delgado, including some (like Rep. Nydia Velázquez) who have endorsed Hochul. And Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has also thrown her weight behind Archila, which she hasn’t done for Williams. (For her part, Reyna has barely campaigned apart from Suozzi, so her fate seems tied to his.)
Despite a glut of gubernatorial polls, there is no public polling of the lieutenant governor’s race, so Delgado could still very well win this based on the strength of Hochul’s coattails. But if not, Archila has pledged to be a more proactive and disagreeable deputy than Hochul would like, holding her feet to the fire from the left or even taking official actions that Hochul might disagree with. No matter who wins, though, he or she will stand out in a different way: Delgado, Archila and Reyna would all be the first Hispanic person elected to statewide office in New York.
While that’s it in terms of Democratic primaries worth your attention (sorry, Colorado, Oklahoma and Utah), there’s even more action on the Republican side of the aisle. Meet us back here at this time tomorrow for our preview of more than 20 Republican primaries of consequence, and then again on Tuesday night as we live-blog the results.