Even in Illinois, where Springfield pols have mastered the art of gerrymandering to create legislative districts that lopsidedly favor one party or the other, look for a few close contests for Congress in November — especially if quality primary candidates get the nod on March 15.
Here are our endorsements in eight Chicago-area congressional races, with more endorsements to come on Wednesday.
Early voting at satellite facilities begins Monday. For suburban Cook County sites, go to www.countyclerk.com. For city sites, go to www.chicagoelections.com. To read our endorsements in state Legislature races and the Cook County Circuit Court clerk race, as well as for candidate questionnaires and related news stories, go to suntimescandidates.com.
1st District, Democratic Primary
Our endorsement goes to longtime incumbent Bobby L. Rush in this district, which runs southwest from near McCormick Place to south of Joliet, taking in much of Chicago’s South Side. Rush has missed more votes on Capitol Hill than any other member of Congress in recent times, but he’s had to get through some tough times in his personal life, caring for his ill wife, struggling with the gun slaying of his son and fighting illness of his own. Despite his missed votes, Rush’s seniority in Congress puts him in a position to deliver for his constituents. His opponents, Ald. Howard B. Brookins Jr. (21st) and civic activist O. Patrick Brutus, say it’s time for a change. We say: not yet. And when this seat in Congress does change hands, it should go to someone with a wealth of experience and measurable accomplishments.
1st District, Republican Primary
In a demographically diverse district that stretches from Chicago’s Near South Side to Will County, you might welcome a good competitive race in the November general election: 700,000 people can’t all think alike. Good luck with that. Two marginal candidates, underfunded and enjoying no notable party support, are running in the Republican primary. Neither stands much chance in this solidly Democratic district. Blogtalk radio host Jimmy Lee Tillman II, who was the Republican nominee two years ago because nobody ran against him, wants to build a wall along the Mexican border and deport some 11 million undocumented residents. The other candidate, August “O’Neill” Deuser, a retired special education teacher who lives in Mokena, ran unsuccessfully for the state House two years ago as a Democrat. He did not participate in our endorsement process. No endorsement.
2nd District, Democratic Primary
Robin Kelly, first elected in 2013, is endorsed for re-election over three less experienced or accomplished candidates. In her brief time in Congress, Kelly has distinguished herself as a thought leader on two issue of importance to her South Side and south suburban constituents: health care and gun violence. In 2015, she authored a substantive “Kelly Report” on health disparities, in cooperation with fellow members of Congress and medical professionals. In 2014, she authored “Kelly Report: Gun Violence in America.” Among other policy recommendations, the report calls for a repeal on gun manufacturers’ legal immunity so that gun violence victims can sue them for damages. Also on the ballot is former USPS mail handler Marcus Lewis. Two other candidates, Charles Rayburn and Dorian C.L. Myrickes, did not participate in our endorsement process.
4th District, Democratic primary
We strongly endorse the incumbent, Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, a champion for immigration reform for a congressional district that covers several heavily Latino communities, including Brighton Park, Little Village, Melrose Park and Cicero. Despite persistent efforts, Gutierrez has been unable to get an immigration bill through the Republican-led House, but he can claim other pivotal victories: He and his colleagues in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus were influential in President Barack Obama’s executive action in 2012 that gave temporarily legal status to Dreamers, those brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Later, Gutierrez and the Caucus helped the White House shape its 2014 deferred action for millions of undocumented parents with U.S.-born children, an action the U.S. Supreme Court is weighing. Gutierrez is an easy choice over radio broadcaster Javier Salas, a former policy adviser to Gov. Pat Quinn who has no experience as an elected official. At the same time, we urge Gutierrez to spend more time in Washington for House votes. He ranks second for most absences.
5th District, Green Primary
The 5th District is the only place in the Chicago area where voters can pick up a Green Party primary ballot in this election. The primary contest pits well-known atheist advocate Rob Sherman against remodeling contractor and political newcomer Warren “Grizz” Grimsley. We think Grimsley’s call to forgive all student loan debt — even for former students who can afford to pay — is unrealistic. But overall we prefer his classic Green Party stance to Sherman’s call for vastly expanding the concealed carrying of firearms and replacing the income tax with a consumption tax. We also think Sherman, of Buffalo Grove, should commit to moving into the district if he wins. The district borders Lake Michigan on the Near North Side and extends west to DuPage County, including all or parts of Elmhurst, Elmwood Park, Franklin Park, La Grange Park, Norridge, Northlake, River Grove, Schiller Park and Oakbrook Terrace. The winner will face Democrat Mike Quigley and likely an appointed Republican candidate in November.
6th District, Republican Primary
For the same reason nine-year incumbent Peter Roskam has drawn a hard-right challenger in this Republican primary, he’ll be tough to beat in November. Roskam is a staunch conservative in a conservative west suburban district that stretches over parts of four counties, but he’s no ideological dead-ender. He voted for the Omnibus Appropriations Bill FY 2016, for example, which kept the government from shutting down. It was far from a perfect bill, to Roskam’s thinking, but it included many good conservative provisions, such as a continued ban on federal funds for most abortions. Now Roskam is being criticized for that vote by challenger Gordon “Jay” Kinzler, a doctor, because the bill also funded Planned Parenthood. Roskam declined to sit for an interview with the Editorial Board, ruling out an endorsement, but Kinzler might only add to Washington’s destructive polarization. No endorsement.
6th District, Democratic Primary
Amanda Howland is a lawyer, former school administrator and — perhaps best of all — professional mediator. She says she would use her bridge-building skills to “at least try” to end the “hyper-partisanship” in Washington. Incumbent Peter Roskam, she says, is out of touch with the 6th District’s generally fiscally conservative but socially moderate values. Howland, a College of Lake County trustee, says a “top priority” in Congress would be to reduce student debt by lowering loan rates. She would restructure the tax code to strengthen the middle class, ending “tax havens and accounting gimmicks” for “wealthy special interests.” She would revise the Affordable Care Act to address the problem of rising premiums and high deductibles for those who do not qualify for subsidies. Also on the ballot is Robert Marshall, a physician and perennial candidate whose ideas are not always feasible. To increase representation in Washington for the most populous states, he would divide them into smaller states, each retaining two senators. Illinois would be divided four ways — Chicago, Suburban Cook, North Illinois and South Illinois. We endorse Amanda Howland.
Coming Wednesday: Endorsements in the 7th District Democratic race, 10th District Democratic race, 11th District Republican race and 14th District Democratic race.
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