US House Races/Illinois

Report by Bruce Driver from Indivisible North Boulder.

Illinois District 06:
Candidates are Peter Roskam (incumbent R) and Sean Casten (D).

Roskam, a lawyer, has held this seat since 2007. He has said that climate change is based on “junk science,” is close to the NRA, voted for the Republican substitute for Obamacare (AHCA) and voted with Trump 94% of the time. However, while he won his election by 18% in 2016, Clinton won the district by 7 points, suggesting he had a weak D opponent.

Casten’s background is in science and engineering, and he started and has been president of a renewable energy company. He has degrees from Middlebury College and Dartmouth and has been deeply involved locally and nationally in the promotion of renewable energy and energy efficiency. His priority issues are climate change/environment, immigration, gender equality and education. He has been endorsed by Bill McKibben (350.org) and Bill Reilly (George H.W. Bush’s EPA head.) He is our kind of candidate. However, according to opensecrets.com, as of 3/31/18 Roskam had $2.5 million cash on hand and Casten only $192,000, but he may be catching up.

Description of district: This district covers the outlying suburbs to the west and northwest of Chicago. It includes many small and medium-sized towns, including some in Cook County. It is largely white and has pockets of wealth. The Cook Political Report (Cook) states that it is about 2 percentage points on average more Republican than the nation, but it rates the race as a “toss-up.” A poll reports that voters are annoyed with Trump, and that they want someone to act as a check on him in DC. This poll has Roskam and Casten virtually tied, but independents favor Casten 43-34. Roskam looks to me like he’s out of touch with his voters in this district, especially now that we have 15+ months of Trump behind us, but as a long-time incumbent he has tons of cash.

Summary: Roskam is ripe for the picking by a strong D. Casten, 46 years old, is progressive and an intelligent and highly successful, job-creating businessperson. As of March 31, though, he was being swamped by Roskam’s money.

Illinois District 12:
Candidates are Mike Bost (incumbent R) and Brendan Kelly (D).

Bost is a two-term incumbent in a district that had been solidly D until Bost won by 14% in 2014. Bost lists his occupation as firefighter, which he was until he won a seat in the Illinois House in 1995, in which he served for two decades. He seems to keep his head down in Congress. He did vote for the AHCA and for the tax bill.

Kelly held various positions in the U.S. Navy and then was a state’s prosecutor in one of the counties in the district. He went after Big Pharma from that position, and he says that he will do so in Congress. He is concerned about the concentration of power in D.C among lobbyists and wealth. He agrees with Trump on trade, will not vote for Pelosi for speaker and is somewhat pro-gun. In this regard, he sounds a lot like Conor Lamb, who won a seat in a red district in Pa. with similar positions. He is a big guy with an engaging presence, looks “rural” and may be able to speak to the two poles of his district—urban and rural. Biden has endorsed him.

Description of district: This district is at the southern bottom of the state. Geographically, it is mostly rural but it is said to be 75% urban by population. Obama won the district two times, but Trump won it by 15% in 2016. Referred to as a “blue-collar” district, in what looks like Democratic gerrymandering it also includes East St. Louis to the north, which is largely African-American. Cook says that it is 5% more Republican than average in the nation but rates the race as a “toss-up.” There is a green candidate on the ballot—not likely to gain many votes in this district—but in a close race, he could hurt Kelly. I would doubt that Bost would get many votes in East St. Louis, so the challenge for Kelly is winning or coming close to winning the rest of the district. Bost and Kelly have about the same amount of cash on hand.

Summary: Kelly is a strong candidate going up against what looks to be a relatively weak incumbent. Some may not favor some of his positions, but he is a D.