Illinois Republicans are investing heavily in the 55th House District race, as GOP primary write-in candidate Susan Sweeney faces off against Democratic Des Plaines Mayor Marty Moylan.
The contributions and pledges of support to her war chest -- including a $100,000 promise from a fundraising committee formed by two of the state's congressmen -- are indicative of the race's prominent place in the party's legislative strategy.
"We weren't sure how the race would fit into our strategy earlier this year, but Susan Sweeney is such a dynamic candidate that the race quickly catapulted to the top of our list," Illinois House Republican political director Kevin Artl said.
He went on to describe the Park Ridge businesswoman's campaign "growing in support each day."
Republicans would need a net gain of six House seats to wrest control of the chamber from longtime Democratic Speaker Michael Madigan, a feat that could be especially difficult this year because the Democrats drew the new political boundaries that govern November's elections.
But before they try to pick up seats, the GOP first has to defend the ones they have. The 55th District seat Sweeney and Moylan are bidding for is now held by 20-year Republican state Rep. Rosemary Mulligan, who isn't on the ballot after not collecting enough signatures to run in the March primary.
As of the June filing period, Moylan had twice as much cash on hand as Sweeney with $92,000, as compared to her $51,000. But over recent weeks, Sweeney, a community activist, has received a string of heavy donations, as well as a handful of campaign staffers from the House Republican organization. The 18th Congressional District Republican Central Committee -- located in Congressman Aaron Schock's district -- donated $10,000 Aug. 28.
Other House Republican candidates -- Darlene Senger of Naperville and JoAnn Osmond of Antioch -- each contributed $2,500 last month. Citizens to elect Tom Cross gave her $25,000 on Aug. 10. The House Republican organization paid $8,500 for a poll commissioned that same week.
Sweeney describes the donations as a combined effort by the Young Guns fundraising committee, formed by Schock and fellow GOP congressman John Shimkus to provide support for Republican candidates. If Sweeney was able to raise $50,000 on her own by the end of June, thus proving herself a serious candidate, she said, they promised her $100,000 in fundraising help.
Moylan says the House Democratic majority is stepping up support for him, too, as well as providing boots on the ground help for his campaign. Yet a look at campaign contributions shows that Democratic donations are not flowing into his war chest at the same pace as Sweeney's.
"We just upped our game," Moylan said. "We are getting help from House Democrats because of the (political action committees') involvement."