Israel, abortion and Capitol riot among the issues dividing congressional candidates

Voters and political pundits across the nation may have their eyes on the race for the White House, but political primary contests here in the suburbs will help determine which party controls Congress for the next two years.

And though the Chicago area is solidly blue — thanks to shifting demographics and favorably drawn district maps — several Democratic incumbents are being challenged in Tuesday’s primary. If they lose, general election showdowns in November could be a lot closer than expected.

Here’s a final look at the primary races for congressional districts in the North, West and Northwest suburbs.

11th District

Democratic voters in the 11th will choose between incumbent Bill Foster and challenger Qasim Rashid, both of Naperville.

Foster, who’s seeking a seventh term representing the 11th, has campaigned as an advocate of the Affordable Care Act. But Rashid, a human rights lawyer, has pointed out that Foster sided with Republican majorities by voting three times to weaken the law, against then-President Barack Obama’s wishes.

Rashid, whose family moved to Illinois when he was young, has touted his suburban roots. Foster has blasted Rashid for repeatedly leaving out that he spent a decade or so of his adulthood living in Virginia, moving back to the Chicago area only in 2022. While in Virginia, Rashid twice ran for elected office and lost — something else Foster has used as a zinger.

Of the pair, Rashid has been far more critical of Israel’s military campaign in Gaza against Hamas after the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks there.

Both men claimed endorsements from different offices of the United Auto Workers labor union until a regional office for those autoworkers rescinded its backing of Rashid and gave it to Foster. Foster had worked with President Joe Biden to save a Belvidere factory that employs UAW workers who live in the 11th.

Foster, Rashid square off in 11th District over health care votes

Labor union pulls endorsement of Rashid, backs Foster in 11th District

Jerry Evans, Susan Hathaway-Altman and Kent Mercado are the Republican candidates for Illinois’ 11th Congressional District seat.

Across the political aisle, Republican voters in the 11th will find three candidates on the ballot: Jerry Evans of Warrenville, Susan Hathaway-Altman of Geneva and Kent Mercado of Bartlett.

Evans, a music school owner, and Hathaway Altman, a chief sales officer for a travel company, both ran unsuccessfully in 2022. Mercado, a doctor and lawyer, is running for the first time.

The trio disagree on whether the U.S. should continue helping Ukraine in its war with Russia. Mercado said he supports aid; Evans said assistance should stop until the U.S. secures its southern border; Hathaway-Altman said the U.S. should focus on domestic issues and not intervene in foreign affairs.

Hathaway-Altman set herself apart by denying that the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol was an act of insurrection and calling for many facing charges to be released. In contrast, both Evans and Mercado condemned the violence of that day.

The 11th District includes parts of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, Will, DeKalb and Boone counties.

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Where 11th District GOP candidates stand on abortion, and why one has made a shift

6th District

The Democratic candidates for Illinois' 6th congressional district are, from left, Mahnoor Ahmad, Sean Casten and Charles Hughes.

Three Democrats are running for the nomination in the 6th: incumbent Sean Casten and challengers Mahnoor Ahmad and Charles Hughes.

Casten, a former energy industry entrepreneur from Downers Grove, is seeking a fourth term; Ahmad, a health care advocate from Oakbrook Terrace, is making her first run at elected office; and Hughes, a Chicago resident and Nicor Gas employee, is running a third time.

The candidates are divided on several issues, including support for Israel. Ahmad has called Israel’s campaign against Hamas “genocidal”; both she and Hughes said the U.S. should stop sending military aid to Israel. Casten supports aiding Israel but was critical of its response to the Oct. 7 attacks.

Casten and Hughes agreed that the U.S. should assist Ukraine, while Ahmad opposed such aid.

The candidates also disagree on whether a single, government-run health care plan is the best way to keep Americans healthy. Ahmad backs the concept, while Casten and Hughes do not.

The winner will face Republican Niki Conforti of Glen Ellyn in the general election.

Democratic congressional candidates divided on support for Israel, Ukraine

Democratic congressional candidates differ on Gaza, health care in forum

4th District

Jesús “Chuy” García, left, and Raymond Lopez are the candidates in the Democratic primary race for the 4th Congressional District seat.

U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, a longtime figure in Chicago progressive politics, is being challenged in the Democratic primary for the 4th District seat by Raymond Lopez, one of the more centrist voices on the Chicago City Council.

Garcia is seeking a fourth term in Congress. Lopez has been the 15th Ward alderman since 2015.

They differ most on foreign policy, having been on opposite ends of federal and local resolutions calling for a cease-fire in Gaza.

Garcia criticized Israel's response to the terror attacks as “over the top,” while Lopez said Hamas must return all hostages before a cease-fire agreement.

Both residents of Chicago's Southwest Side, the candidates are running to represent a district that includes that part of the city and extends to parts of suburban Cook and DuPage counties, including portions of Hinsdale, Oak Brook and Elmhurst.

No Republican is on the primary ballot.

Democratic primary candidates Garcia and Lopez differ on potential cease-fire in Gaza

14th District

Charlie Kim, left, and James Marter are the Republican candidates for Illinois' 14th Congressional District seat in the 2024 primary election.

The Republican primary in the 14th District pits Aurora’s Charlie Kim against Oswego’s James Marter. Kim is a business owner in his first campaign; Marter is an information technology consultant who serves on a library board and has unsuccessfully run for federal office four times.

Both Kim and Marter questioned the legality of Democratic President Joe Biden’s win over Republican Donald Trump in 2020.

Kim lives in the neighboring 11th District and initially planned to run for Congress there as a Democrat before filing in the 14th. He’s said he didn’t think he could beat Foster in the 11th. Marter has criticized Kim for running in a different district than the one in which he lives and has tried to connect Kim to the “deep state” conspiracy theory.

Lockport resident Krystal Dorey is an official write-in candidate in the 14th.

The winner will face Democratic U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood of Naperville in the general election. The 14th District encompasses parts of Kane, Will and five other counties.

It’s newcomer vs. five-time federal candidate in GOP’s 14th Congressional District contest

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