CHICAGO (AP) — Democratic Rep. Sean Casten defeated Republican Keith Pekau in the U.S. House race for Illinois’ 6th district, retaining the seat for a third term and helping Democrats striving to maintain control of Congress.
The district is just west of Chicago.
The scientist and businessman-turned politician raised and spent over four times more than Pekau, despite an 11th-hour assist from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who appeared at a campaign fundraising event with Pekau four days before the election.
A statement from Casten's campaign announcing his victory characterized the win as constituents’ stamp of approval for his voting record, including climate protection and gun reform legislation.
“Tonight, the people of the 6th District sent a resounding message that this is something we can build on,” Casten said.
Illinois lost one of its 18 House seats after the 2020 census. Democrats, who control state government and redistricting in Illinois, received pushback for the new maps from Republicans and beyond.
Illinois’ 17th district could be key to whether Democrats hang on to their slim majority, as rookies battle to fill the vacancy left by retiring Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos. The district stretches from Rockford in the north to Peoria and Bloomington in central Illinois.
Esther Joy King, a lawyer who serves in the Army Reserve, is the Republican candidate in the district. In 2020, King came within a few percentage points of ousting Bustos, who was running for a fifth term.
Top on King’s priority list are agriculture and bipartisan cooperation, which she says are key to serving the district's needs.
King faces Democrat Eric Sorensen, a Rockford native who worked as a meteorologist in Rockford and the Quad Cities for nearly 20 years.
For Sorensen, whose tagline is “Forecasting a Bright Future for Illinois,” addressing inflation and shoring up reproductive rights are the foremost issues.
He is calling for bipartisan efforts to bring down costs for food, healthcare and gas, and says he disagrees with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which struck down constitutional protection for abortion. Safe and legal abortion is a reproductive right and constitutes a healthcare matter between a woman and her doctor, according to Sorensen.
His campaign clashed with King’s over the issue when a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee advertisement claimed King’s pro-life stance would ban abortions in Illinois, even in cases of rape or incest.
King said during an Oct. 3 debate that she supports exceptions in cases of rape, incest, or threat to the life of the mother, and would oppose a federal abortion ban.
The race for the 13th district — which spans Champaign, Decatur and Springfield in central Illinois down to east St. Louis in the southwest — has also garnered attention. Redistricting bumped incumbent Rep. Rodney Davis into a different district, where he lost to Rep. Mary Miller, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump.
Democrat Nikki Budzinski from Peoria defeated Republican Regan Deering of Decatur for the district seat.
The opportunity to represent Central and Southern Illinoisans is Budzinski’s “greatest honor,” according to a statement from her campaign office announcing her victory.
“We have a lot of work to do – families are struggling today, and they deserve a champion in Congress that will be laser focused on reducing costs so they can get ahead,” she said, affirming her commitment to reaching across the aisle to “achieve real results.”
Budzinski is a labor activist, former Biden administration staffer and senior adviser to Gov. J.B. Pritzker. She ran on rebuilding the middle class.
“Working people are struggling right now with rising costs, and I want to go to Congress to be their fighter,” she said in an Oct. 6 debate, where she expressed support for protecting Medicare and Social Security, a woman’s right to choose and funding for public schools.
She defeated Deering, a philanthropist and former educator, who prioritized securing the U.S. border with Mexico and reining in “reckless spending.”
Savage is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
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