Remap makes for tough road ahead for some suburban lawmakers
SPRINGFIELD -- Illinois House Democrats' Friday proposed a set of political boundaries that could set up some tough decisions for some incumbent suburban Republicans as they make their campaign plans for 2012.
The Senate did the same Thursday, meaning new legislative maps could be approved next week. If the Democrats can approve their maps by May 31, they increase their chances of having engineered political boundaries that make it easier for them to keep control of the House and Senate for the next 10 years.
Democrats drew the current political maps starting for the 2002 elections, for example, and have controlled the Statehouse since.
The proposed maps could change in the coming days, but the drafts have the potential to give the GOP headaches. When Democrats draw boundaries that lump multiple incumbent Republicans into one district, they guarantee one of them will either lose a primary election or be forced to move elsewhere to run unopposed.
In the House Democrats' map, Republican Reps. Tim Schmitz of Batavia and Mike Fortner of West Chicago would live in the same district. GOP Reps. Randy Ramey of Carol Stream and Franco Coladipietro of Bloomingdale would, too.
Elsewhere in DuPage County, the map takes the extra step of grouping three Republicans: Reps. Patti Bellock of Hindsale, Dennis Reboletti of Elmhurst and freshman Chris Nybo, also of Elmhurst.
And in Lake County, Democrat Rep. Carol Sente of Vernon Hills lives in the same proposed district as Republican Rep. Sidney Mathias of Buffalo Grove.
Sente and Mathias both said Friday they respect each other and would rather not run against one another.
"I guess if that's what the powers that be deem should happen, then I'm going to do my best as I always have," Sente said. "We must admit that it has to be a political process, but I hope it does consider everything a good map should. ... And I would love them to take Sid out of my district."
When some incumbent lawmakers are doubled up in some districts, other districts are left open for hotly contested, open-seat races. The proposed Democrats map includes open districts in northernmost Lake County, western Kane County, another in north and eastern Kane County and one in DuPage County.
Rep. Fred Crespo, a Hoffman Estates Democrat, said he didn't expect the proposed map to change much.
"Whatever the map looks like now, I will continue doing the same thing. The map wasn't drawn for me," Crespo said. "It will be interesting to see what it looks like, but whatever it is, I just hope I can continue to represent the values and interests of the district."
The release of proposed maps comes as lawmakers are also trying to put together a state budget and perhaps deal with hot-button issues like gambling expansion, workers' compensation reform and changes to the state pension system, all before May ends.
House Republican Leader Tom Cross, an Oswego Republican, called the Democrats' release of political maps distracting and criticized the process.
"It is disingenuous for the House Democrats to release this map late in the afternoon on a Friday with very limited access to demographic data and an analysis that explains why they drew the boundaries where they did," Cross said in a statement.
Hearings on the proposed House and Senate maps are scheduled in Chicago and Springfield in the coming days.
• Daily Herald Politics and Projects Writer Kerry Lester contributed to this report.