Suburbs will be key legislative battleground in November

Posted3/20/2012 10:46 PM
  • Randy Ramey.

    Randy Ramey.

  • Carole Pankau

    Carole Pankau

  • Chris Nybo

    Chris Nybo

  • Kent Gaffney

    Kent Gaffney

  • Ron Sandack

    Ron Sandack

  • Stephanie Kifowit

    Stephanie Kifowit

  • Deborah Boyle

    Deborah Boyle

  • Alex Arroyo

    Alex Arroyo

  • Carole Cheney

    Carole Cheney

  • Kirk Dillard

    Kirk Dillard

  • David McSweeney

    David McSweeney

A number of incumbent Republican state lawmakers fell in Tuesday's primary, ratcheting up a battle for the suburbs as Democrats push to extend their reach in the November general election.

Republican state Rep. Randy Ramey of Carol Stream is set to leave the legislature next year after unofficial results showed him losing to state Sen. Carole Pankau of Itasca in a bitter Republican primary battle for Illinois Senate District 23 in DuPage County.

And freshmen state Reps. Chris Nybo of Elmhurst and Kent Gaffney of Lake Barrington also lost their GOP primary races for the Illinois House, unofficial results showed. Nybo lost to veteran state Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale in the 24th Senate District in DuPage County and Gaffney trailed newcomer David McSweeney of Barrington Hills in the 52nd House District in the Barrington area.

In addition, a number of other Republican veterans did not even run for re-election Tuesday, promising the party will have a number of new candidates on the ballot in November.

Whether Democrats can win more seats in the suburbs is a question that won't be answered until November, but it's clear that many of the state's most hotly contested races will be in the suburbs.

The many shake-ups in the Republican Party in particular are a result of the new political map, drawn by Democrats, that changes the boundaries of districts across the state. The Democrats' new lines, most observers say, give the party a big advantage in trying to elect their candidates.

"I think Republicans have reasons to be concerned," said David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University.

The suburbs have become a critical battleground for power in Springfield for both parties as Chicago has remained a Democratic stronghold and downstate areas have started to trend even more strongly Republican.

Democrats, who also were in charge of drawing new maps for the 2002 election, already have made inroads into the suburbs in the last decade, turning the area bluer than it's ever been.

With the trends elsewhere in the state, the suburbs might remain the key battleground for the coming decade, too.

Pankau could face a strong challenge in the 23rd District. Democrats are eyeing that seat with Villa Park Mayor Tom Cullerton, who led his two opponents Tuesday for a chance to move on.

Democrats will try to get an extra seat in the House out of the newly drawn 84th District in Kane and DuPage counties, where Democrat Stephanie Kifowit will face Republican Pat Fee after Tuesday's results.

And in Lake County, the resignation of Sen. Suzi Schmidt in scandal left the 31st Senate District open for Joe Neal to defeat three opponents and take on Democrat Melinda Bush in November in an area Democrats have won before and would like to get again.

And Lake and Cook counties will see a battle for Illinois House between incumbents Republican Sid Mathias of Buffalo Grove and Democrat Carol Sente of Vernon Hills, the only sitting lawmakers of opposite parties in Illinois who will do battle in November.

Other veteran Republican lawmakers bowing out of the race were state Rep. Franco Coladipietro of Bloomingdale, who retired, and state Sen. Chris Lauzen of Aurora, who ran instead for Kane County Board. Longtime state Rep. Rosemary Mulligan of Des Plaines had trouble with her petition signatures, paving the way for political newcomer Susan to try to win as a write-in candidate and take on Democratic Des Plaines Mayor Marty Moylan for Illinois House from northwest Cook County.

"You do have more than usual turnover," Yepsen said. "There will be some new faces and some fresh faces."

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