Oberweis runs strong against Underwood; Casten, Ives locked in tight race too

Casten, Ives are locked in a tight race

The races for Illinois' 14th and 6th congressional districts started out as two of the hottest contests on Capitol Hill.

And while the national parties may not have stayed focused on them, the unofficial returns Tuesday night suggested voters sure did.

Both races finished the night in seesaw battles so tight that it was impossible to predict winners in either showdown.

With Election Day ballots in about 86% of the 14th District's precincts reported, Republican Jim Oberweis, a state senator and dairy owner from Sugar Grove, led first-term Democrat Lauren Underwood of Naperville, 174,230 to 171,809. That was a margin of about 50.4% to less than 49.7%.

Oberweis was optimistic, saying it could be "a great, glorious night."

Underwood wasn't conceding as she waited for all the votes to be counted - a task expected to stretch into today. "We're encouraged that the remaining votes yet to be counted will land in our favor," she said.

And with Election Day votes counted in about 93% of the precincts in the 6th District, freshman Democrat Sean Casten of Downers Grove was narrowly leading Republican challenger Jeanne Ives, a former state representative from Wheaton, by a 154,087 to 148,438 margin. Libertarian Bill Redpath of West Dundee had 5,545 votes. That gave Casten about 50% of the vote to Ives' roughly 48.2%.

Ives spokeswoman Kathleen Murphy said her team was "feeling very positive" Tuesday night. A Casten spokesman declined to comment.

The available figures in both races didn't include ballots cast on Election Day that hadn't yet been counted or some of those cast early in person or by mail - which altogether could number in the hundreds of thousands.

In addition, vote tabulations were coming in slowly in DuPage County.

The 14th District includes parts of DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, Will, DeKalb and Kendall counties. More than 166,000 ballots that had been requested by mail had yet to be turned in as of Tuesday in those counties, according to state election officials.

The 6th District includes parts of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties. Nearly 316,000 ballots that had been requested by mail had yet to be turned in as of Tuesday in those counties.

Ballots postmarked by Tuesday will be counted if they arrive at election authority offices by Nov. 17. Mail-in votes are expected to lean more Democratic than ballots cast at the polls.

Both Underwood and Casten were part of the blue wave that gave Democrats majority control of the House in 2018.

Underwood, a registered nurse who held bureaucratic jobs before joining Congress, beat Republican Randy Hultgren of Plano in 2018 to win her seat, capturing more than 52% of the vote.

Casten, the former CEO of an energy recycling company, defeated Republican Peter Roskam of Wheaton with nearly 54% of the vote.

Despite initial national interest in the races, neither Oberweis nor Ives garnered financial support from the National Republican Congressional Committee in the summer and early-fall months, federal records indicate.

And with the national GOP putting resources and energy into other campaigns, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was able to do the same.

The outcome of the two races may be a barometer of the status of the Republican Party in the suburbs.

Unless the GOP could win back those seats, the future of the party in the suburbs "looks pretty bleak," political expert Kent Redfield said - especially after new congressional districts are drawn.

"The congressional Republicans could become a regional party primarily located outside northeastern Illinois," said Kent Redfield, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Illinois Springfield.

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Heated races for 6th and 14th congressional seats drawing to a close

  U.S. Rep. Sean Casten thanks supporters during an election night gathering in Hoffman Estates. With 47% of precincts reporting Tuesday night, Casten led opponent Jeanne Ives, a former Republican state representative from Wheaton, by a ratio of about 52.1% to 46.2%. Mark Welsh/
  Republican congressional candidate Jim Oberweis speaks to the media at his election night gathering in Aurora. John Starks/
  Congressional candidate Jeanne Ives talks to voters as they head in to the polling place at the DuPage County Fairgrounds in Wheaton Tuesday. Rick West/
  U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood addresses the media on Tuesday at her campaign headquarters in St. Charles as supporters wait for votes to come in. Incomplete, unofficial results Tuesday night showed her trailing GOP state Sen. Jim Oberweis by less than 1 percentage point. Paul Valade/
  U.S. Rep. Sean Casten gives a speech Tuesday at the Chicago Drive-In Theater in Hoffman Estates. Casten led former Republican state Rep. Jeanne Ives by 50% to 48.2%, according to incomplete, unofficial results Tuesday night. Mark Welsh/
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