As the Springfield budget battle brews, conservatives are planning to put the pressure on in the suburbs.
Americans for Prosperity, a national conservative organization with an Illinois arm, plans an "aggressive" advertising and mail push this spring to try to influence suburban Democrats, in particular.
Illinois Director David From says the campaign will likely focus on budget and tax issues largely in support of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposals. The ads likely will urge voters to contact their representatives to push those views.
"We want to really be kind of aggressive," From said.
In previous years, From has run TV ads and mailers to pressure lawmakers to oppose an income tax hike and a plan to tax Illinoisans at different rates depending on how much they make. Americans for Prosperity also will organize a door-knocking campaign.
"That's a dimension that's really important," From said.
The effort will be statewide, but From said he thinks about 75 percent of resources will focus on the Chicago area. That's because the suburbs are home to the state's largest number of swing legislative districts, where Republicans need to make inroads in 2016 if they want to cut Democrats' majorities in Springfield.
Last November, Democrats managed to hold on to all their local seats in the Illinois House and Senate in spite of Rauner's victory.
This week's news that Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Foster of Naperville is eyeing a challenge to Republican Sen. Mark Kirk in 2016 has some local leaders watching the race closely.
And not just because the Senate race will be among the tops in the country.
But if Foster or U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth -- or both -- join the fray, that means they'd abandon their seats in the U.S. House.
And that would turn either district into a seat with no incumbent, drawing a lot of interest from candidates of both parties who have just been waiting for a clear shot to run for Congress.
When one of them makes a decision either way, it could set off a domino effect through the suburbs of officeholders or would-be lawmakers hoping to move up.
On the other hand ...
Cook County Clerk David Orr said this week about 63 percent of suburban local elections in his county are uncontested.
Other numbers from his analysis: 2,080 candidates total are bidding in April's election, 19 mayoral races are uncontested, 60 percent of races were uncontested in 2011, and 699 total races are being run in suburban Cook County.
In-person early voting starts Monday.
The fire hose
Shortly after covering U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock's first campaign for Congress, I had the chance to ask longtime suburban congressman and former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert what advice he'd give to freshmen lawmakers.
Hastert's advice: Learn the rules. Pay attention.
"I just went to the chamber floor and watched, watched the procedures, watched how people spoke, who talked to who, how deals were put together," said Hastert, of Plano.
"Get back home, listen to your constituencies and try to serve them and the needs that they have," he said.
Schock, of course, announced his resignation this week after questions arose about his travel expenses.
At the time, Schock had just wrapped freshman orientation, a time when rookies learn the rules and how Congress worked. It's a lot to learn.
"It's been like drinking from a fire hose," he said.