Democratic House political chief Illinois 2014 Congress rundown: Braced for big Bustos, Enyart contests

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WASHINGTON—The chair of the Democratic House political operation on Tuesday deemed every Chicago area incumbent in good shape heading into the 2014 contests, not expecting—with one exception—replays of bruising 2012 battles.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) briefed reporters on the 2014 political landscape at a breakfast organized by the Christian Science Monitor.

I asked Israel about the Illinois House delegation, which has a large Democratic freshman contingent: Rep. Robin Kelly, Rep. Tammy Duckworth, Rep. Brad Schneider, Rep. Cheri Bustos, Rep. William Enyart and Rep. Bill Foster, who is a freshman with an asterisk since he has previously served in Congress.

Kelly is the only one in the freshman bunch from a safe Democratic district—you may remember, the one that re-elected former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. last year—even though no one had seen him for months and there were ethics clouds handing over him. Jackson is, as most of you need no reminding, booked for a 2.5 year prison term starting Nov. 1.

DCCC polling shows all of the freshmen incumbents “running strong,” Israel said.

The members with the biggest fights on their hands are Bustos and Enyart, representing Downstate districts that “some would call more competitive,” Israel said.

Compared to Bustos and Enyart, Schneider’s re-election bid should not be as tough, Israel said, referring to Schneider’s north suburban Chicago district.

“Schneider has Dold, but he is in very, very good shape,” said Israel. That’s a reference to the brewing rematch in the 10th congressional district between Schneider and former Rep. Bob Dold (R-Ill.)

Referring to the 10th, Israel said, “the Democratic DNA in that has come back to where it should have been.” Referring to Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) who held the 10th House seat before running for the Senate, Israel said, “that district was won not by a Republican, but by Mark Kirk. People loved Mark Kirk, they didn’t love Republicans.”

My takeaway, after chatting with Dold last month in Highland Park: Do not underestimate Dold’s determination to take back the seat.

From the DCCC perspective, Israel said the biggest race in Illinois—and one of the biggest nationally for the DCCC– is in the Downstate 13th district hardly paid attention to in Chicago, where former Madison County Judge Ann Callis is seeking to dislodge freshman Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.)

“That’s going to be one of our top tier, marquee races in the country,” Israel said.

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