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Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signs congressional map; Rep. Rodney Davis to decide soon on governor bid

Gov. Pritzker said, “These maps align with the landmark Voting Rights Act and will ensure all communities are equitably represented in our congressional delegation.”

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, shown in an October photo, signed the new congressional map on Tuesday.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, shown in an October photo, signed the new congressional map on Tuesday.
John O’Connor/AP photo

WASHINGTON — Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday signed the new Illinois congressional map state Democrats designed to — if the plan works — yield 14 Democratic and 3 Republican districts.

Pritzker, up for reelection in 2022, was expected to approve the map with his signature triggering the arrival in the coming days of a decision from Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., about his political future — whether he runs for governor or seeks another term in the House.

Davis, from Taylorville, has said he will make an announcement once the map is official. On Tuesday, after Pritzker signed the map, his spokesman, Aaron DeGroot, said in a statement, “Stay tuned. Rodney will make an announcement on his future plans very soon. He hopes everyone has a blessed Thanksgiving.”

At present Illinois sends 13 Democrats and 5 Republicans to Congress. The state lost a seat due to reapportionment following the 2020 census. Candidates running for Congress do not have to live in the districts they want to represent.

Democrats hoped to entice Davis to stay in the House by drawing a GOP downstate district he could run from and likely be the only incumbent in the primary.

The Democrats tossed together in one district Republican Reps. Mary Miller, from Oakland, and Mike Bost, of Murphysboro.

Darin LaHood, from Peoria, and Adam Kinzinger, of Channahon, were also paired together. Kinzinger, leading a crusade against Trumpism and former President Donald Trump — which would make it hard for him to win a primary even if he was given a district with no other incumbent — decided not to seek another term. Kinzinger also has not ruled out a run for governor or senator; no announcement is expected before January.

Since Bost already announced he was running, the play to watch is what Miller, the strongest Trump follower in the delegation, will do.

The Democratic mapmakers — led by Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, and House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside — aimed to inoculate themselves against a successful federal court challenge to the map based on civil rights issues in part by recognizing the increase in Hispanic population in the state. The mapmakers created a new district, the 3rd, intended to elect a Hispanic member of Congress.

In October, the co-chairs of the National Republican Redistricting Trust — Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor, and Mike Pompeo, former President Donald Trump’s secretary of state, pledged to provide legal help if there is a federal challenge to the Democratic-crafted congressional map in Illinois.

The map, with districts shaped like the blobs used in Rorschach tests, has three districts – 1, 2 and 7 – designed under the Voting Rights Act to elect a Black member to Congress. Those districts were not dramatically changed in the remap and the incumbents, Reps. Bobby Rush, Robin Kelly and Danny Davis, are expected to seek reelection.

The current map has one district — the 4th — with a Hispanic voter majority, represented by Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia. The 4th had its north end cut off and used to create a new 3rd District called a Hispanic influenced district because of a lack of a majority Hispanic voting age population.

The open seat in the heavily Democratic district is expected to attract a crowd in the June primary.

Pritzker in a statement said, “These maps align with the landmark Voting Rights Act and will ensure all communities are equitably represented in our congressional delegation.”

Pritzker also noted in his statement the “Voting Rights Act prohibits practices and procedures that discriminate on the basis of race, color or membership in a protected language minority group.

“Building on and strengthening that consequential law, the Illinois Voting Rights Act of 2011 ensures redistricting plans are crafted in a way that preserves clusters of minority voters if they are of size or cohesion to exert collective electoral power.

“The maps signed into law today meet those requirements by creating a second district of significant Latinx representation that reflects the community’s rapid growth on the west side of Chicago.”

The byproduct of creating the new Hispanic influenced district is a primary in the new 6th District between Democrats — Marie Newman of LaGrange and Sean Casten from Downers Grove. The remap put Newman and Garcia together in the new 4th District. Newman opted to run in the new 6th, which incorporates many precincts from her current district.

Nationally, Democrats, led by former President Barack Obama and his first attorney general, Eric Holder, have been on a campaign against Republican gerrymandered maps. Illinois is one of the few states where Democrats totally control redistricting.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has only a three- or four-vote margin in the U.S. House, and Illinois is one of the states that can help Democrats retain the House in the 2022 elections.