DIXON, Ill. — The 5 in 5 Project has moved on to Illinois, the Land of Lincoln, the home state of President Obama and a key state for the Democratic Party’s hopes of retaking the House of Representatives.
But we’re nowhere near the competitive congressional districts today and instead plan to visit the 16th Congressional District, which stretches from Joliet south of Chicago and arcs to the northwest, beyond Rockford and out west towards Dixon.
The state’s Democratic-controlled redistricting process merged parts of the old 16th District with areas of other GOP-leaning districts that stretched from the Chicago suburbs into central Illinois. Obama narrowly won this part of Illinois four years ago and it is expected to remain a solid Republican hold in the House race. Though the final outcome of the House race is all-but certain, this region is better known for the bitter primary earlier this year between Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) and Rep. Don Manzullo (R-Ill.).
Kinzinger, who moved here from the old 11th District, prevailed in a closely watched primary that colleague Paul Kane described in March as “a fight that mirrors the larger Republican debate over what it means to be a conservative.”
Ever since, Kinzinger has taken what appears to be an insurmountable lead by raising roughly $1.7 million for his reelection, according to campaign finance disclosures. His opponent, Democrat Wanda Rohl, is a licensed social worker and drug and alcohol counselor who only joined the race in June and has raised a little more than $5,000, according to the Federal Election Commission.
National and statewide Democrats have no plans to provide Rohl with significant support, which led her to complain to local reporters last month: “We knew that this district was drawn as a giveaway,”she told the News Tribune. “It doesn’t mean that the people of this district are happy about it.”
With the race all but locked up, we’re eager to hear from folks in this deeply red part of Obama’s home state, so we hope to speak with Dixon residents and tourists who stop here to visit Ronald Reagan’s boyhood home and the nearby John Deere Historic Site. The town is also eagerly anticipating a visit Saturday by the popular British band Mumford and Sons, which chose the town as one of only four U.S. stops on its “Gentlemen of the Road” tour.