WASHINGTON — GOP presidential candidate Joe Walsh is skipping his home-state Illinois primary while Democratic front runners Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have delegates in every congressional district — but, in a surprise, Pete Buttigieg does not.
Two late entries in the crowded Democratic field, Mike Bloomberg and Tom Steyer — spending millions of their own dollars to finance their bids — didn’t bother to muster Illinois delegate slates, relying instead on party rules that will award them delegates based on a proportion of the vote – as long as they meet a 15% threshold in a district.
Friday was the deadline to file for the March 17 Illinois primary. The crowded Democratic field means Illinois may be in play if the February votes in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada and the earlier March states do not yield a likely nominee.
An Illinois presidential candidate needed to file 3,000 to 5,000 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.
President Donald Trump filed and filled most of the 54 delegate slots – 3 for each of the 18 Illinois congressional districts.
Walsh, a former suburban Chicago House member who lives in Mundelein, finds his already narrow path to defeating Trump shrinking.
Walsh spokesman Charles Siler told the Sun-Times they had to allocate scarce resources in other states, especially Iowa and New Hampshire.
“It’s the strategy that we have to take to stay viable,” Siler said. Former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld did not file in Illinois but two fringe candidates did: Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente of San Diego and John Schiess of Rice Lake, Wis.; neither with delegates.
Putting together delegate slates is a test of a campaign’s organization. Producing valid signatures on petitions from individuals for 101 slots is easier said than done, given all the arcane rules.
Other Democrats filing without delegate slates were John Delaney; Tulsi Gabbard; Mike Bennet, Cory Booker and Deval Patrick.
Warren and Sanders filled all the slots; Biden had 98 making them the Illinois front runners for now. The three have been working Illinois for months, even as they focus on the early states.
Another surprise — Andrew Yang, who has never been a front-runner but has buzz, filled 65 slots. That’s more than Buttigieg, with only 52 delegates. Amy Klobuchar filled 63 slots.
I was surprised about Buttigieg because he has led the pack in raising money in Illinois — from small and large donors and fundraisers — and has a branch of his national headquarters in the South Loop.
The campaign tried and could not get valid petitions for all its would-be delegates in all 18 districts. “Our campaign prioritized collecting signatures from voters in every congressional district to ensure Pete is on the ballot in the Illinois primary,” Buttigieg spokesman Sean Savett said.
Bloomberg, unlike Steyer, is making an Illinois push. He has hired staff in Illinois and is betting that with paid professionals and heavy TV buys, he can earn Illinois delegates.
The Bloomberg and Buttigieg campaigns made the the point that since there is another route for earning delegates in Illinois, running delegate slates is not crucial.
“With Mike getting in the race six weeks ago, his top priority in Illinois was to get on the ballot. Our campaign showed great organizational strength by getting on the ballot in such a short period with the maximum number of signatures allowed,” spokesperson Julie Kavier told the Sun-Times.
Democrats will elect 101 delegates from the 18 districts in Illinois, with the number of delegates ranging from three to eight; Democratic districts will be awarded more delegates.