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Dem Rep. Marie Newman slams new Democratic Illinois congressional map

The first-time congresswoman is in a district with GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger. Rep. Bobby Rush also doesn’t like his remapped district, which remains heavily Democratic.

Freshman Rep. Marie Newman, D-Ill., voting on Oct. 7, 2020.
Freshman Rep. Marie Newman, D-Ill., voting on Oct. 7, 2020.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times, Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

WASHINGTON – The draft Illinois congressional map unveiled Friday – and drawn by state Democrats to create 14 Democratic districts and three Republican – was blasted by freshman Rep. Marie Newman because it leaves her extremely vulnerable to primary and general election challenges.

Democrat Newman was outraged, given the power of the state Democratic mapmakers – Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, and House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside – to draw more favorable lines.

The 17 crazy-shaped districts zigzagging around Illinois were gerrymandered to maximize Democratic voting power.

Nationally, Democrats have been raging against GOP states gerrymandering mainly because there are so few states where Democrats have the sole congressional mapmaking power.

At present, Illinois sends 13 Democrats and 5 Republicans to Congress. Illinois drops to 17 seats because of reapportionment following the 2020 Census. There will continue to be one Hispanic and three Black districts, all on Democratic turf.

The potential three-seat pickup for Democrats in the Illinois remap has enormous national implications. The map presents tough choices for Republican Reps. Adam Kinzinger and Rodney Davis who may run for the U.S. Senate or governor if they determine there is no district they can win.

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

On Tuesday, the Sun-Times learned, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the co-chairs of the National Republican Redistricting Trust, will kick off an attack on the Democratic-drawn Illinois map, with more GOP assaults to come.

Democrats did not use all the available partisan firepower, said David Wasserman, one of the nation’s foremost remap experts, who is with “The Cook Political Report with Amy Walter.”

The Illinois proposed map is “both uglier and less effective for Democrats than expected,” he wrote. With some shifts, Democrats could have added more protection for Rep. Lauren Underwood, who barely won a second term in 2020.

According to Wasserman’s analysis Illinois Democrats – who can still revise the map - unwittingly created some potential swing districts rather than safe havens in 2022. “If the political environment goes south for Democrats in 2022, this grotesque gerrymander could turn into a ‘dummymander,’” he wrote.

NEWMAN AND KINZINGER

Democrats pushed Newman’s district west so it sweeps in Kinzinger’s home in Channahon. Kinzinger has a soaring national profile because of his crusade to break former President Donald Trump’s grip on the Republican party. As a target of pro-Trump forces, Kinzinger will face a primary battle no matter when he runs.

Wrote Wasserman, “Considering that the southwest Chicago suburbs are, if anything, trending right, this seat would be a toss up in a favorable midterm climate for the GOP.”

In the new 3rd District, Newman, a progressive from LaGrange, sheds city of Chicago precincts she depended on while pushing her far west.

With more conservative Democratic turf, former Rep. Dan Lipinski, who Newman defeated in a 2020 Democratic primary, told Crain’s Chicago Business he’s mulling a 2022 comeback bid.

Newman said in a statement, the proposed map “is not only retrogressive but substantially diminishes the diverse and progressive voices of Chicago’s Southwest Side and suburbs.”

“I know that IL-03’s constituents will ensure their voices are heard loud and clear at these public hearings over the coming days.”

Kinzinger in his statement signaled he may move on after six terms. “Following the release of the new congressional maps for Illinois, my team and I will spend some time looking them over and reviewing all of the options, including those outside the House.”

DAVIS, LAHOOD, MILLER

Democrats put Davis in a snake-shaped Democratic majority district slithering through Democratic vote-rich university towns in central Illinois. Said Davis in a statement, “As expected, our lying Governor teamed up with state Democrats to draw a shameful, partisan gerrymander in a desperate attempt to keep Nancy Pelosi in power.”

And Democrats tossed in the same GOP district freshman Rep. Mary Miller and Rep. Darin LaHood, setting up a potential primary.

BOBBY RUSH

Rep. Bobby Rush, with one of the most Democratic districts, does not like the turf he’s getting, calling the map “an absolute nonstarter” and “a horrendous map” that “does not take into consideration cultural affinities. It begins at a place called absurd, and it ends at a place called ridiculous. The best thing about this map is that my southern boundaries are not in Iowa.”