Casten wins close race as Democratic incumbents emerge victorious in suburbs

In a district Joe Biden won by 10 points in 2020, incumbent Sean Casten declared victory over Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau.

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Chicago Sun-Times

Complete coverage of the local and national primary and general election, including results, analysis and voter resources to keep Chicago voters informed.

An emotional Sean Casten declared victory in his bid for a third term in Congress after edging out a Republican challenger as Democratic incumbents across Chicago’s suburbs seemed to overcome political headwinds.

Casten seemed to swap positions with Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau as each batch of returns were reported Tuesday night in the race for the 6th District. But with 96% of precincts reporting, Casten led Pekau 54% to 46%.

Around 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, Casten took to the lectern at Chicago Laborers District Council hall to tell supporters Pekau had conceded the race.

Casten, whose 17-year-old daughter, Gwen, died in June of cardiac arrhythmia, said the race was difficult personally and politically. Tearing up, Casten recalled taking the stage to announce his victory in 2020 with Gwen by his side and the political strife of the last two years in a polarized Congress.

“Part of the why it feels so good to have won tonight is because I needed this reminder – as (the late Congressman) Elijah Cummings used to tell us – that we are better than this,” Casten said.

Farther south, Democrat Lauren Underwood faced a close race in her bid for a third term representing the 14th District against Scott Gryder. Underwood led the Kendall County Board president by 54% to 46%, with about 79% of precincts reporting.

The two districts, which Biden carried by more than 10 points two years ago, became battlegrounds for Democrats in the days running up to Tuesday’s vote. With the party facing difficult odds of retaining a narrow majority in the U.S. House, Casten welcomed President Joe Biden and Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the closing days of the campaign.

Casten and Underwood, who were elected as part of a Democratic wave in 2018, were new to roughly 70% percent of voters in their newly redrawn districts. Earlier this year, Casten handily beat 3rd District U.S. Rep. Marie Newman in a hard-fought primary between two incumbents.

Pekau gained national attention with his criticism of Illinois’ criminal justice reforms and COVID-19 restrictions at Orland Park board meetings, which were featured on Fox News.

The Republican also got a boost from the national party with a visit last week from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and a $1.8 million ad buy by a GOP-aligned political action committee — an infusion that was more than the $1.1 million Pekau reported spending from his own accounts during the cycle. Casten reported spending $4.7 million on his campaign.

Pekau could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

Underwood, who won by narrow margins in her first two elections for Congress, reported raising more than $6 million in her race against Gryder, who raised roughly a tenth of what the incumbent pulled in.

In the far north suburban 11th District, incumbent Democrat Bill Foster defeated Republican Catalina Lauf 56% to 44%, with about 95% of precincts reporting.

A physicist who won his first term in Congress in the run-off race to replace former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Foster, 69, has served five terms in Congress. Lauf, a 29-year-old former Trump administration official, was featured as a speaker at the 2020 Republican Convention.

In the north suburbs, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi won a fourth term representing the 8th District, beating Republican Chris Dargis 56% to 44%. Two years ago, Krishnamoorthi beat Libertarian Preston Gabriel Nelson in the general election by more than 50 points.

Jan Schakowsky, a 12-term incumbent representing the north suburbs and parts of Chicago, defeated Republican Maxwell “Max” Rice, 72% to 28%, with about 90% of precincts reporting.

And with 100% of precincts reporting in the 10th District, incumbent Democrat Brad Schneider beat Republican Joseph Severino 62% to 38%.

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