Barring a surprise overturning of their congressional redistricting map by state courts, Illinois Democrats will get their most desired wish for 2012, next to the reelection of Barack Obama: Republican House members fighting against one another for the newly carved districts in the Prairie State.
Although there was talk (and hope) that the GOP lawmakers would work out arrangements in which some moved to other districts and avoided clashes, it is not to be. In just the last week, in two districts sculpted by the Democratic-controlled state legislature and signed by Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, battle royals will be held between conservative GOP incumbents whose major disagreement is who should hold the seat.
In the new 16th District, 20-year Rep. Don Manzullo will square off against freshman Rep. Adam Kinzinger.
“Congressman Manzullo is running from where he lives,” Press Secretary Rich Carter told HUMAN EVENTS, noting that the congressman’s home in Ogle County lies within the boundaries of the new 16th District.
Kinzinger Press Secretary Brook Hougeson confirmed to us that her boss will run in the 16th too. She did point out that Kinzinger, who has more than $400,000 in his campaign kitty, will have to relocate from his Kankakee County home in the present 11th District in order to run in the new 16th. (The 11th District, from which U.S. Air Force veteran Kinzinger unseated Democratic Rep. Debbie Halvorson in 2010, has become an open district under the new plan, and much more Democratic with the addition of Aurora and Joliet. Former Rep. Bill Foster, ousted from the old 14th District in 2010, plans to launch a comeback bid from the new District 11.)
As to who is favored in the March primary next year, it is anyone’s guess. Nearly 44% of Manzullo’s old 16th District (314, 000 people) is in the new 16th, while only 30% (219, 000 people) of Kinzinger’s old 11th is in the new 16th. But the remainder of the district is composed of constituents who have never voted for either Republican before: 12% (88,000) from the old 14th District of freshman Republican Rep. Randy Hultgren and 10% (76,000) from the old 15th District held by more moderate Rep. Tim Johnson.
An even more unpredictable—and potentially acrimonious—situation is taking place in the new 14th District, where Hultgren and fellow freshman Republican Rep. Joe Walsh will square off. Both are favorites of the Tea Party movement, although Walsh maintains a higher profile from his regimen of spirited appearances on cable TV talk shows (notably his celebrated clash with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews during the deficit reduction debates).
Walsh told reporters yesterday: “I’ve decided to run for reelection from the district in which I live and where I represent most of my current constituents. If the Democrat map stands, I will be running in what is the new 14th District, which entails a good portion of Lake County, almost all of McHenry County, Kane County, Kendall County, and some of Will and DeKalb Counties.”
He noted that “there is another Republican congressman drawn into this new district, Randy Hultgren, and it would be unfortunate if we had to run against each other.” Hultgren has signaled he will run in the new 14th as well, where he also resides.
Hultgren has slightly more voters from his old district (293,000) to those from Walsh’s old 8th (215,000). But the remainder of the new 14th is a potpourri from the districts of four other Republican House members: Manzullo (106,000), Judy Bigert (86,000), Kinzinger (10,000), and Robert Dold (1500).
Simply put, it’s anyone’s game.
And for now, at least, Republicans in Illinois ache over it.