Syed's defeat of Bos in 51st House District bucked trend of incumbent victories in Northwest suburbs

Among the Illinois House and Senate races in the Northwest suburbs, voters Tuesday largely favored incumbents - most of them Democrats - but there was a notable exception.

That was 23-year-old Inverness Democrat Nabeela Syed's defeating first-term Republican state Rep. Chris Bos of Lake Zurich in the 51st House District.

Syed credited her victory to a campaign effort that included knocking on doors and communicating through mailers and TV ads.

"I'm feeling very, very grateful," she said Wednesday. "I think we laid it all out there. We communicated our message. We wanted to let constituents in this district know what exactly I would fight for in the state legislature, in our suburban district and the place that I've called home, and a place that I was born and raised in, and I have a lot of care for this community."

Bos did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday, but he posted a statement on Facebook thanking his supporters and congratulating Syed.

"It has been an honor to serve the great communities of the 51st District," Bos wrote. "I am proud of my collaborative work to strengthen child predator laws, expand health care accessibly, and fight for the victimized and vulnerable. Whether through my previous work with nonprofits or as a state representative, I've always been passionate about advocating for the community and will continue to serve."

When Bos, a former Ela Township trustee, was elected to the seat two years ago, the district primarily encompassed communities in southern Lake County. After redistricting, the 51st District now includes parts of southern Lake County and northern Cook County, including all or parts of Palatine, Inverness, Hoffman Estates, Rolling Meadows, Barrington, Kildeer, Deer Park, Long Grove, Vernon Hills, Lake Zurich and Hawthorn Woods.

Longtime 54th District state Rep. Tom Morrison of Palatine didn't run for reelection after that redistricting process put him in Bos' district.

Morrison said Democrats' choosing a candidate with roots in the newly drawn 51st District helped them win the seat.

"While Rep. Bos was an incumbent, he really wasn't known at all in the area I had, whereas Nabeela was a Fremd (High School) grad and still has a lot of connections and was able to build upon that," he said.

Morrison believes money from Gov. J.B. Pritzker also provided "a ton of fuel" for candidates like Syed, who were able to buy TV commercials and other advertising.

Elsewhere in the legislative district, the apparent victories of Republican incumbents Dan McConchie of Hawthorn Woods in the 26th Illinois Senate District and Martin McLaughlin of Barrington Hills in the 52nd Illinois House District prevented what otherwise might be seen as a blue wave.

Other incumbent victors included state Sen. Ann Gillespie in the 27th District, state Sen. Laura Murphy in the 28th District, state Rep. Fred Crespo in the 44th District, state Rep. Maura Hirschauer in the 49th District, state Rep. Mark Walker in the 53rd District, state Rep. Martin Moylan in the 55th District, and state Rep. Michelle Mussman in the 56th District. All are Democrats.

In the redrawn 54th District, voters elected Democrat Mary Beth Canty, an Arlington Heights village trustee, over fellow Arlington Heights resident Michele Hunter of Arlington Heights in one of the rare races without an incumbent.

Mussman, a Schaumburg resident who won her seventh term in the House, said personal interactions with voters on the campaign trail has been an effective approach for Democrats in the Northwest suburbs.

"It just makes you a better legislator and a better candidate overall," she said. "It forces you to learn the topics that are important to our residents much more. It's a very slow process. It is challenging and has become more challenging over the years."

Mussman won her first term in what then was perceived as a more conservative district in the wake of predecessor's Paul Froehlich change from Republican to Democrat mid-term. Some of her constituents have told her she's the only Democrat they vote for, she said.

"I think the characteristics of the district have continued to evolve over time," Mussman said. "I think the needs of the public change."

Though Democrats dominated Tuesday's state legislative elections, Mussman said finding middle ground with colleagues will be necessary in Springfield no matter which party they belong to.

"I want us to all move forward in a better direction," Mussman said.

• Daily Herald staff writers Steve Zalusky and Christopher Placek contributed to this report.

Democrat Nabeela Syed of Inverness, right, defeated Republican incumbent Chris Bos of Lake Zurich in Tuesday's election for the 51st state House District seat.
Chris Bos
Michelle Mussman
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