Casten and Underwood dramatically outspent Ives and Oberweis in early October, records show
Democrats in two hot suburban congressional races spent vastly more than their Republican opponents on advertising and other campaign expenses in the first half of October, new disclosure reports show.
But none of the four candidates' reports showed financial assistance from their national parties in that often critical financial period.
In the race for the 6th District seat, incumbent Democrat Sean Casten of Downers Grove spent about $905,655 on operational campaign expenses between Oct. 1 and Oct. 14, his preelection report to the Federal Election Commission showed. Republican challenger Jeanne Ives of Wheaton spent about $491,952 on such expenses during the same period.
In the neighboring 14th District, Democratic incumbent Lauren Underwood of Naperville spent about $457,927 on operational expenses during the two-week period, her preelection report showed. Republican challenger Jim Oberweis of Sugar Grove had about $105,346 in operational expenses during the same time frame.
Both seats had long been held by Republicans until Casten and Underwood won in 2018 as part of the blue wave that gave Democrats control of the House.
The races have been the most contentious congressional showdowns in the suburbs, with name-calling and mudslinging common in ads and during debates.
The presidential candidates have even gotten involved in the battles. Last week, Republican President Donald Trump tweeted an endorsement of Oberweis, while Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden previously endorsed Underwood and Casten.
At the start of the 2020 election cycle, the races were among the most closely watched contests in the nation, said Kent Redfield, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Illinois at Springfield.
But Redfield believes the lack of recent financial assistance from either national party -- combined with the presence of such activity in congressional races downstate and in other parts of the country -- indicates both the GOP and the Democrats now are focused elsewhere.
"This leaves the Republican candidates in the 6th and 14th to fend for themselves against incumbents in districts that are trending more and more Democratic with an unpopular Republican president at the top of the ballot," Redfield said.
Congressional candidates must regularly file financial reports with the Federal Election Commission. Reports can be viewed at fec.gov.
Casten's campaign started October with about $2 million. It received about $227,169 in donations during the period covered by preelection reports and spent about $908,456 total, finishing the period with about $1.3 million.
Additionally, federal candidates must declare donations of $1,000 or more received after preelection reports are filed. As of Monday, Casten had $31,100 in such donations.
Ives' campaign started the month with about $493,240 saved. She received about $243,182 during the first two weeks and had roughly $510,283 in total spending, finishing the period with about $226,138 banked.
Ives also has reported receiving $24,200 since her preelection filing.
Underwood's campaign started the month with about $2.3 million saved. She received about $457,927 in the two-week period and recorded a roughly $911,596 spending total, finishing with about $1.8 million in the bank.
Underwood also has reported $10,000 in donations since her preelection filing.
Oberweis' campaign started October with about $875,842 saved. He received about $77,365 in donations during the two-week period and reported about $255,346 in total spending, finishing with about $697,861 in his coffers.
Oberweis also has reported receiving $26,800 since the preelection filing.
Redfield doesn't believe the endorsements from Trump and Biden will move the needle much.
"The president's endorsement of Oberweis helps with rallying his base, but does nothing for attracting swing (or) undecided voters, given Trump's unpopularity among suburban voters," Redfield said. "Oberweis does not add voters by saying, 'Trump is with me.'"
Biden's endorsements of Casten and Underwood may help their campaigns "marginally," Redfield said.
"His centralist image helps with moderate Democrats who may have reservations about Casten or Underwood being too far left on things like health care or climate change," Redfield said.
Libertarian candidate Bill Redpath of West Dundee also is running in the 14th District and hasn't done much fundraising or spending, collecting just $850 in early October and ending the period with a skimpy $1,708 on hand, his report showed.