This is the place and now is the time to go into the 2020 Illinois House races.
Illinois has a lot in common with New York. Both have a world-class major city with tall buildings, spectacular sightseeing, and amazing food. As it turns out, that major city and its suburbs dictate the politics of the state as a whole, which is part of what will get Dick Durbin re-elected. However, once you get into the farther reaches of the state, away from the big city, the character changes completely. You would not know you were in a state that contained Chicago or New York City, respectively. One goes from millions of people in areas of dense population to rural areas with wide-open spaces.
As such, the politics change, too. Upstate New York vs. New York City is quite alike to the struggle of Downstate Illinois vs. Chicago. The amount of blue decreases the farther from the city you get, and in some places, it’s not present at all. So, when looking at a US House map of Illinois, one will see a great deal of red, but the density of blue seats in the northeastern corner of the state is what drives Illinois politics.
The questions we have to answer are twofold: Will the blue escape further and get into traditionally Republican downstate areas, and do the Republicans have any means of infiltrating back into Chicagoland? Back in the day, and we’re talking just a few years ago, the GOP had a fighting chance in the suburbs, but the 2018 Blue Wave put an end to that for now. Democrats are focused on retaining their gains and expanding the map while Republicans are looking for any signs of hope they can find while retaining their red fortresses to the south.
We rated all of Illinois’ 18 House of Representatives races below, with updates as necessary.
US House Rating Scale
Here’s the chart showing how we rate the 2020 Illinois House races, all without the word “tossup.”
2020 Illinois House Races Current Prediction Summary: April 25
Current Illinois US House Map
Chicago Area Map
This district starts in Chicago and then migrates down into the suburbs, but not to the extent that the seat next door does. Nevertheless, this is a safe seat. Bobby Rush has been around for what seems like forever and will have this seat as long as he wants it.
One would not think a seat that takes in so much of the southern corner of Chicago would extend to Kankakee, but it does. Despite some rural areas in the southern reaches of the district, the Chicago part is so overwhelmingly Democratic that it makes no difference. Robin Kelly will be re-elected.
This was one of the hottest Super Tuesday races in Illinois as Dan Lipinski got primaried by Marie Newman. Lipinski, a more moderate Democrat with 15 years in the House, could not withstand Newman’s progressive challenge. In this district, the Democratic primary is in essence the key race, meaning Newman is going to Congress.
This is one of the most notoriously gerrymandered districts in the nation, forming a sideways “U” around the 7th District. At its narrowest points, it is only about a block wide. All of this is an academic curiosity; even if it weren’t so hard to draw, the Democrats would win big around here.
The House seat containing O’Hare Airport and Wrigleyville, represented by Mike Quigley for over a decade, will remain as such. As a general rule, the Republicans will not win or be competitive in any seat that reaches inside the Chicago city limit.
This 6th District was a 2018 flip, and one that at present does not appear to be going back for the time being. On paper, this does not look like a district in which Republicans should struggle, being far enough out into the suburbs where they have had success. Yet, we all remember what happened to the GOP in the suburbs in 2018 and this is a prime example of a district drifting bluer. We would expect Joe Biden to carry this seat in November, and Sean Casten will go on the ride with him.
Danny Davis has represented the Chicago Loop and areas due west for decades. That’s not about to stop now as the GOP getting 20 percent here would be an earthquake. There is no understating how safe Davis is.
The Republicans are not targeting this one in any way, and even if they did, Raja Krishnamoorthi would take a sizable win. This is the sort of seat the GOP might have had a chance in 10-15 years ago but now is trending away from them at high velocity.
Not only do just Democrats win in this area, but they tend to stick around for decades. Jan Schakowsky is quite safe.
Despite the lean of the district, which is Democratic on the presidential level, moderate Republicans can and have gotten elected here. Not only that, but they persevered, which is why the 2018 results noted a big shift. The GOP got annihilated here in the midterm elections and it’s probably too far gone for now.
The 11th District used to stretch more into Downstate Illinois but now it’s compacted into the southwestern suburbs of Chicago. This is not territory in which it is usual for Republicans to succeed, and we know for a fact they were not competitive here in 2018. What’s changed? Not much.
Mike Bost got a bit of a scare in 2018, winning a GOP-leaning Downstate Trump district by just six points. Democrats have won here but generally speaking, the 12th has gotten more Republican over the last decade. This is not to say Bost cannot have another close call, but it feels like the Democrats are not going to get much closer to him than they did.
This seat could have been another “yikes” moment for the Illinois GOP in 2018, who lost two seats overall but this was almost the third. The narrow win for Rodney Davis in 2018 was not quite uncharacteristic, as he did also have a close race in Obama’s re-election year of 2012. He is getting a rematch this year against Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, and it would not take a lot for her to flip the seat. We have what could be the closest of the 2020 Illinois House races on our hands and the Democrats are going in on it with support from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).1 However, at this early stage, we still think there may be enough Republican votes in this district to save Davis at presidential turnout levels.
If you think of how the 6th District does not look like a place where Republicans should lose, then how do we explain this one? The 14th District flipping in 2018 was a bit of a surprise; it is typical for Republicans to win here and Trump carried the district in 2016. The seat is well out into the suburbs and even gets rural. Just because of the historical bent of the district, we would not call Lauren Underwood safe. We would also not feel great about Underwood’s long-term prospects here unless the map is redrawn to favor her during redistricting. However, the list of elections that GOP opponent Jim Oberweis has lost is a mile long so we’re not feeling too good about him, either.
John Shimkus is taking off after over 20 years representing this very rural area in Congress. Since the GOP is looking for good news in this state, it’s that this is their most Republican seat in Illinois. The new Republican nominee, Mary Miller, is a strong favorite to win.
Heaven help the GOP if this seat becomes in play. With the Democrats expanding the map out from Chicago and into the suburbs, they can ill-afford to lose districts like this that are way on the fringes of the Chicago area, and all but out of the suburbs. Adam Kinzinger is the GOP’s last stand in this part of the state, and even with a wave behind the Democrats, they did not get close to taking him down in 2018. Kinzinger should be fine.
Despite a narrow Donald Trump win here in the presidential race in 2016, this is a Democratic seat and area. The re-elect percentages for Cheri Bustos have gone up, not down, since picking the seat up in 2012. Regardless of what Trump or Biden do in this district, Bustos is in fine shape.
Darin LaHood is unopposed, meaning the LaHood family name will continue on in the US House for at least another two years.
1: Max Greenwood, “DCCC unveils initial dozen candidates for ‘Red to Blue’ program,” The Hill, January 28, 2020, https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/480231-dccc-unveils-initial-list-of-a-dozen-candidates-for-red-to-blue-program/)