Where Casten, Roskam find support as election approaches

Where Casten, Roskam find support as election approaches

Candidates aren't the only ones busy ahead of Election Day in races as nationally significant as the one in Illinois' 6th Congressional District.

It's also a variety of other organizations - some local, some not; some issue-based, some partisan - that are scrambling to complete their to-do lists for promoting candidates before Nov. 6.

The support might look different depending on the party or the group, but Republican incumbent Peter Roskam and Democratic challenger Sean Casten both are feeling it as they near crunchtime.

Money matters

Federal Election Commission data shows outside groups spent $330,041 to support Roskam between Jan. 1, 2017, and Oct. 19. Casten, meanwhile, had drawn $90,660 in outside supportive spending, according to totals from quarterly, monthly and semiannual reports filed with the election commission. The amounts aren't donated to candidates or their campaigns, but rather raised and spent independently.

On the flip side, outside groups have spent $806,003 to oppose Casten since the start of 2017 and $103,001 to oppose Roskam, election commission data shows. Those totals don't reflect all the money pouring into the race because they don't include funds spent by outside groups on communication or electioneering to support or oppose either side. But they offer one indicator in a tight race that's tough to predict.

Help at home

Some of the groups active in supporting the Roskam campaign are the Congressional Leadership Fund, the National Republican Congressional Committee and Americans for Prosperity. They've been chipping in to Roskam's re-election effort with ads, direct mailers and, in the case of Americans for Prosperity, canvassing door-to-door and conducting phone banks.

For Casten, who's running his first political campaign and trying to unseat the six-term incumbent, one of the most active groups - at least to people on a list of "inconsistent Democrats" - is the Chicago-based Progressive Turnout Project.

The group aims to reach people who don't vote in every election but cast ballots for Democrats when they do. The thinking, executive director Alex Morgan says, is if the Turnout Project connects with such citizens, campaigns can focus on persuading independents and rallying the base.

"Our goal is to be a value add on top of the campaigns we're helping," Morgan said.

The Turnout Project isn't the only organization making its voice heard in the 6th District, which runs from Naperville to Tower Lakes in parts of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties. Jewish Democrats, conservation voters, Sierra Club supporters and even fans of Cards Against Humanity have chimed in with donations and promotions.

Close call

The district in the past two elections has handily gone to Roskam. In 2016, he beat Democrat Amanda Howland, 59 percent to 41 percent. In 2014, he did even better, winning against Democrat Michael Mason with 67 percent of ballots cast.

Roskam's closest call was his first House election, when in 2016 he claimed 51 percent of the vote to edge out now-U. S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth.

This time, early political analyses called the race a tossup. Fox News still does. So does political news website FiveThirtyEight, which Sunday night gave Roskam a 50.5 percent chance of winning.

But now, at least three other sources - The Cook Political Report, Sabato's Crystal Ball from the University of Virginia's Center for Politics and Inside Elections nonpartisan analysis from Nathan Gonzales - say the race "leans" or "tilts" Democratic.

In such a tight battle, the candidates and their supporters are looking for any edge.

In campaign cash, Roskam appears to have it.

At the close of the third quarter, which ended Sept. 30, Roskam's campaign had $1.8 million on hand, while Casten's had $1.3 million. Both spent $1.9 million during the third quarter, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission, but to allow that amount of spending Casten raised $2.6 million, while Roskam raised $1.3 million.

How outside groups help in 6th Congressional District 'where votes count'

  Ben Barker of the Progressive Turnout Project greets Naperville resident and newly registered voter Zeferino Garcia at his doorstep one afternoon in the weeks before the Nov. 6 election, conducting a survey on voting behavior and encouraging Garcia to cast a ballot. Bev Horne/
  Jaclyn Murphy, 6th District director for the Progressive Turnout Project, leads a "team launch" meeting one afternoon in Naperville before eight Turnout employees head out to talk with voters in their assigned "turf" for the day. Bev Horne/
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