No red wave here: Democratic congressional candidates won big in the suburbs
Despite projections of a red wave that would push Republicans into office in Illinois and across the country, Democrats -- nearly all of them incumbents -- swept all eight suburban congressional seats in Tuesday's election.
And though some of the showdowns occasionally seemed close while votes were being counted, none finished that way. The Associated Press was able to declare winners in the last of the races just after midnight.
Democrats were able to win the suburban seats -- and likely up to six others in the state -- in part because state Democratic leaders drew the congressional map after the 2020 census to protect Democratic candidates, said Kent Redfield, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Illinois Springfield.
The mapmakers' primary goal was to "protect the suburbs," he said.
Additionally, at a time when abortion rights are being challenged across the country, Democratic candidates in Illinois received organized campaign help from groups supporting reproductive rights, including Planned Parenthood and Personal PAC, Redfield said. By targeting Republicans who opposed abortion, those groups energized voters on the issue, he said.
Redfield said the national Republican Party was more focused on winning downstate races this cycle.
The biggest congressional blowout in the suburbs occurred in the 9th District, where incumbent Democrat Jan Schakowsky of Evanston notched nearly 71% of the vote against Republican challenger Max Rice of Chicago, unofficial results showed. It was the first of the suburban congressional races called by the AP, with the news agency declaring Schakowsky the winner about 10 p.m., three hours after polls officially closed.
Rice was the latest in a long line of GOP challengers soundly beaten by Schakowsky, who's served the heavily Democratic district since 1999.
The closest congressional race was in the 6th District, where Democratic incumbent Sean Casten of Downers Grove fended off a challenge from Republican Keith Pekau of Orland Park. Although the nationally watched, multimillion-dollar race looked like it was neck and neck for a while, Casten pulled ahead for a sizable victory, with nearly 54% of the vote.
In the race for the open 3rd District seat, Democrat Delia Ramirez of Chicago topped Republican Justin Burau of Winfield with nearly 67% of the vote, unofficial results showed.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley of Chicago similarly ran away with the 5th District post. He defeated Republican Tommy Hanson and independent Jerico Matias Cruz, both of Chicago, with nearly 68% of the vote.
It was the third time Quigley faced and defeated Hanson, who minimized the severity of the COVID-19 virus, repeatedly refused to acknowledge President Joe Biden was legitimately elected in 2020 and downplayed the severity of last year's assault on the U.S. Capitol.
In the 8th District, Democratic incumbent Raja Krishnamoorthi of Schaumburg bested GOP challenger Chris Dargis of Palatine with more than 56% of the vote,
In the 10th, Democratic incumbent Brad Schneider of Highland Park defeated Republican challenger Joe Severino with about 62% of the vote.
The race for the 11th District seat was closer. Democratic incumbent Bill Foster of Naperville knocked off Republican challenger Catalina Lauf of Woodstock with about 56% of the vote.
Lauf was aggressive on social media, bashing Foster and other Democrats on crime, the economy, immigration and other issues.
But the majority of voters still went for Foster.
"People in the suburbs aren't interested in divisive politics," Foster said Wednesday. "They want a clean environment, good schools for their kids, safe communities and a government that functions."
In a statement released on social media Wednesday, Lauf congratulated Foster on his win.
"(I) hope he will represent the values of every hardworking American in the 11th District," Lauf said. "With high inflation, high gas prices and businesses shutting down, we hope you will make the right choices in putting Illinoisans first before party."
Another Democratic incumbent from Naperville won the 14th District race. Lauren Underwood got the nod over GOP rival Scott Gryder of Oswego with 54% of the vote.