SPRINGFIELD -- With candidates rushing for the best ballot positions on the first day to file nominating petitions for the March 20 primary, heated races are shaping up in a number of suburban legislative districts.
A three-way contest is shaping up so far between Republicans Chris Hage of Wheaton, Laura Pollastrini of Carol Stream and Jeanne Ives of Wheaton in the newly drawn 42nd House District, which includes Naperville, Aurora and Wheaton. Three also lined up Monday in the Democratic primary in the 84th House District in Naperville and Aurora. They are Aurora residents Alex Arroyo, Stephanie Kifowit and Ken Maurice. In the 23rd Senate District that stretches from Bloomingdale to Itasca to Wood Dale, two sitting lawmakers Sen. Carol Pankau of Itasca and state Rep. Randy Ramey, of Carol Stream, will go head to head in the Republican primary. So will state Rep. Chris Nybo of Elmhurst and Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale in the Republican primary in the 24th Senate District, which includes Oak Brook, Elmhurst and Hinsdale.
State Rep. Kent Gaffney, the Lake Barrington Republican appointed by party leaders to replace the late state Rep. Mark Beaubien, will be challenged by David McSweeney, of Barrington Hills, in the new 52nd state House District, which encompasses Barrington, Barrington Hills, and Inverness.
Lennie Jarratt of Round Lake Beach and Larry Leafblad of Grayslake are seeking the GOP nomination in the 31st Senate District, which includes much of Warren Township and is currently held by outgoing Republican Sen. Suzi Schmidt of Lake Villa.
In the 33rd Senate District, which includes St. Charles, Elgin, Hampshire and Grafton Township, Kane County Board Chair Karen McConnaughay is bidding against Gilberts businessman Cliff Surges in the Republican primary. Dave Richmond of Batavia and Richard Slocum of St. Charles are vying in the Republican primary for the open 25th Senate District seat in Batavia, Sugar Grove and St. Charles. Former gubernatorial candidate Jim Oberweis has also announced plans to run.
And insurance broker Tim Elenz of Streamwood will challenge current Sen. Michael Noland of Elgin in the 22nd District Democratic primary. The new district includes Elgin, Carpentersville, Hoffman Estates, and East and West Dundee.
Candidate filing began Monday and kicks off a suburban election season that could see a number of contentious primary races at all levels, thanks to new political maps drawn by Democratic lawmakers to reflect 2010 census figures.
Contested races will continue to solidify throughout the week, with candidates facing a Dec. 5 deadline for filing nominating petitions.
It's a scene that was repeated throughout the suburbs, where candidates for county offices could file petitions locally, too. Meanwhile, a legal dispute over the newly drawn congressional maps pushed back filing in those races until late December.
In Springfield, candidates lined up -- some before dawn -- to be first inside the Board of Elections building when it opened at 8 a.m. Monday.
Jarratt, a Lake County Tea Party leader who's running as a Republican in the 31st District, said he had been in line since 4:30 a.m.
"It's been fun out talking to everybody," Jarratt said.
Why so early?
Everyone in line at 8 a.m. Monday was eligible to get his or her name listed first on the ballot for that race. Conventional political wisdom and at least one study suggest that being the top name in a crowded field of relative unknowns can boost a candidate's chances of winning.
At 8 a.m., a state police officer stood at the end of the line, and anyone ahead of the officer was eligible for the top spot. If more than one candidate for any race was in line at the time, the top spot is decided by lottery.
Many incumbent lawmakers and other candidates let campaign staff members handle their petitions, skipping the cold waiting game in Springfield.
Even as candidates make their bids official, the political boundaries that set the districts they're running from remain in question. A lawsuit over the legislative map continues in court, as does a lawsuit over the new congressional map.
In fact, a federal judge last week pushed the filing period for congressional candidates back to Dec. 21.
Some suburban primary races for Congress are expected to be among the most closely watched in the country, including the GOP battle between incumbent Reps. Randy Hultgren of Winfield and Joe Walsh of McHenry.