Casten to face primary challenge even after winning remap fight
Democratic U.S. Rep. Sean Casten of Downers Grove will face a primary opponent next year despite last-minute changes to proposed congressional district maps meant to protect him from one.
Maps approved early Friday by Democrats in Springfield rescued Casten from sharing the new 6th District with fellow Democratic Rep. Marie Newman, as had happened in a previous draft of the map.
But later Friday, Newman -- a first-term lawmaker from La Grange representing the current 3rd District -- said she will take on Casten anyway after the latest map threw her into the 4th District with Democratic incumbent Jesus "Chuy" Garcia of Chicago.
Congressional candidates in Illinois do not have to live in the district they want to represent. Newman's home is only about four blocks from the new district line.
Casten said it's "unfortunate" that the redistricting process will put "two friends, two allies" against each other in the race for the 6th District seat.
"I think it's a distraction for the country," he said. "I don't think it's the right thing to do."
Asked how his campaign will unfold, Casten said the most important thing in any election "is to make it very clear to the public where our morals and values are." He noted he ran for Congress on a platform that included fighting climate change and protecting women's rights.
"I'm not going to change who I am," he said.
The new 6th includes about 40% of Newman's current 3rd District.
"The lion's share of this new district is made up of the communities and residents I represent today, and I look forward to continuing to serve them in Congress," Newman said in a statement.
The new map, which still must be signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, drastically reshapes the 6th District, which currently includes parts of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties.
The new version eliminates the Lake, McHenry and Kane portions, as well as some of northwestern DuPage and northwestern Cook counties. Then it expands east to include more of southwestern Cook County.
Running in the 6th District rather than in the Hispanic-heavy 4th makes sense for Newman, Illinois political expert Kent Redfield said.
If she did (run in the 4th), she would lose badly," said Redfield, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Illinois Springfield.
Still, it's disadvantageous for candidates not to live in the districts they're running in, so the map helps Casten, Redfield said. But that can be overcome, he added.
"The 6th contains more of Newman's old district than it does of Casten's old district," Redfield said. "On the whole, the map they adopted does signal a preference for Casten over Newman. But it does not do either one any favors."
Two Republicans -- Niki Conforti of Glen Ellyn and Justin Burau of Winfield -- have announced their candidacies for the 6th District.
Conforti slammed the Democratic mapmakers, saying they "put party over people."
Burau's home will be in the 3rd District if the new map is enacted, and he's not happy about it.
"These hyperpartisan maps are a reflection of the priorities for Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi, which is maintaining control," Burau said. "People who live in Illinois deserve better representation."