5 local races to watch in Illinois’ Primary Election

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CHICAGO —  While political campaigns have understandably taken a backseat to world events for many, Illinois’ Primary Election is still underway. Here are a few of the contests we're keeping an eye on tonight:

Cook County State’s Attorney (Democratic winner - Kim Foxx, Republican winner - Pat O’Brien)

With four Democrats on the ballot, the big local election prize is Cook County State’s Attorney. Incumbent Kim Foxx is facing challengers Bill Conway, Donna More and Bob Fioretti.

In 2016, Foxx defeated two-term State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, who was dragged down by her role in the Laquan McDonald case. It took her more than a year to charge officer Jason Van Dyke.

Expectations for the former chief of staff to Toni Preckwinkle were soaring. Foxx pledged criminal justice reform and public safety.

“In the last three years we’ve seen a reduction in violent crime due to the work of our gun crimes strategies unit. Where we were once the false confession capitol of the United States, we lead the country in the vacating of wrongful convictions,” Foxx said.

But Foxx’s term has been marred by controversy, as the Jussie Smollett saga hangs over the race.

What the candidates are saying about the issue

“You can’t have a situation where politically connected people get better deals,” Conway said.

“When you blow a big case, people don’t trust you on any other case,” More said.

“I would not treat somebody like Jussie Smollett differently than anybody else,” Fioretti said

Despite the Smollett trouble, a WGN-TV/Emerson College Poll conducted last week shows Foxx with a big lead. But a number of voters said they were undecided.

On the Republican side, it’s Pat O’Brien versus Christopher Pfannkuche.   

“What a mess Kim Foxx has made of the State’s Attorney office,” O’Brien said. “People are tired of a State’s Attorney that thinks that the victim doesn’t come first and that the person that commits the crime is the same as the victim.”

Pfannkuche was the GOP candidate on the ballot against Foxx in 2016. The Fraternal Order of Police has endorsed him.

“When I ran against her four years ago I didn’t have a team, it was the first time I ever ran for political office, I wasn’t a politician at that time and I didn’t have money, I couldn’t get my ads on TV,” Pfannkuche said. “This time I have an incredible team. I’m all over the place. I’m giving speeches every single day.”

Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District

In Illinois’ 3rd district, it’s a rematch between Congressman Dan Lipinski and Marie Newman. But this time two other candidates are in the race: Rush Darwish and Charles Hughes.

“The district is really clear about what they want. They want a real Democrat with a real plan that has specific solutions and not just platitudes around health care, transportation, everyday needs, empowering unions,” Newman said.

Lipinski is a centrist, rare in today’s polarized political environment.

“There’s a battle for the soul of the Democratic Party going on and my primary opponent, Marie Newman, has embraced the extreme policies of the Tea Party of the left,” Lipinski said.

Illinois’ 14th Congressional District 

Out in the traditionally red 14th Congressional district, Republicans are seeking a strong candidate to take on freshman Democrat Lauren Underwood.

Candidates on the GOP ballot: 

  • State Senator Jim Oberweis, most known for his work in the family dairy business. He’s unsuccessfully run for governor, Congress and U.S. Senate
  • State Senator Sue Rezin, the assistant Republican Leader in the Senate
  • Ted Gradel, who kicked off his campaign with an endorsement from former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz
  • Catalina Lauf, a 26-year-old former adviser to the U.S. Commerce Department
  • James Marter, a software consultant and former chairman of the Kendall County Republican Central Committee
  • Jerry Evans, a music school founder
  • Anthony Catella a former priest

Illinois’ 6th Congressional District (winner - Jeanne Ives)

Illinois’ 6th District is another closely watched race, with two Republicans vying to win the GOP nomination and take on Democrat Sean Casten.

Jeanne Ives, who primaried Governor Bruce Rauner in 2018, has support from the House Freedom Fund. She’s facing Gordon “Jay” Kinzler, a transplant surgeon and Army Reserve Colonel.

Cook County Circuit Court Clerk

We're also watching the race to replace Dorothy Brown, who is retiring as Cook County Circuit Court Clerk, as four democrats want that position.

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