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The three most important races in Tuesday’s Illinois primaries

If you're looking for party infighting, look no further than the primaries on Tuesday in Illinois.

This November, Illinois is expected to have a competitive governor's race and some congressional races. But first, some of the big-name candidates have to get through divisive primaries, primaries that in many ways reflect the power struggles wracking Democrats and Republicans in the Trump era.

Here's what you need to know about the three biggest races in Illinois happening Tuesday:

1. Illinois governor's race, GOP primary

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner is one of the most vulnerable sitting governors up for election this November, given he's an unpopular Republican leading a fairly Democratic state; a state that just went a year-and-a-half without a budget under his watch.

But his election challenges were supposed to come after the primary. That changed in December, when he got an upstart challenger from the right, socially conservative state lawmaker Jeanne Ives, whom he hasn't been able to shake. Ives is attempting to rally the conservative base to punish Rauner for signing bills that the Democratic legislature sent him, like protecting abortion, immigration and transgender rights.

She got national attention for a TV ad stereotyping transgender people, liberal activists and Chicago teachers that even Republicans in Illinois said was so offensive it should be taken down.

Polls in this primary are generally unreliable, but Politico reports on one sign that Ives is having a measurable impact: Even Democrats are starting to get involved in the Republican race. The Democratic Governors Association has released TV ads attacking Rauner and Ives. The Ives ads, Politico's Natasha Korecki points out, may have the (possibly intended) effect among Democrats of boosting Ives's name recognition and cache among Republicans in the hopes she actually does unseat Rauner.

The Democratic Governors Association released a TV ad attacking conservative Illinois gubernatorial candidate and state lawmaker Jeanne Ives. (Video: Democratic Governors Association)

That would be a massive upset. Watch instead for whether Ives can get some 30 percent of the vote, a potential sign that Rauner has trouble with his own party.

2. Illinois governor's race, Democratic primary

The Democrats in Illinois are even more divided than Republicans. Six candidates are running for governor to try to unseat Rauner in the general election, and each is trying to represent a different faction of the party that's vying for control in Illinois and nationally. The top three candidates, roughly, are:

J.B. Pritzker: One of Rauner's advantages is his wealth. He's already given $50 million to his own campaign. But front-runner Pritzker is from one of the wealthiest families in the country and has said he'll spend whatever it takes to win the general election. He's also quickly become the favorite of the Democratic establishment, running on a platform of turning around the state's lagging economy and pushing against the Trump agenda. If Pritzker wins, as insiders expect, it could make the Illinois governor's race one of the most expensive governor races in history, rivaling money spent in a presidential race.

Chris Kennedy: The nephew of president John F. Kennedy is another massive name in this race. He's not been afraid to try to capitalize on his name recognition, running ads celebrating his father, the late Robert F. Kennedy. Consider him the second choice of the Democratic establishment.

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Daniel Biss: Consider Biss the most progressive candidate in the race. A political group with ties to Bernie Sanders endorsed Biss in January, though insiders say his campaign has faded in the final few weeks.

3. Illinois 3rd Congressional District, Democratic primary

Progressive activists are actively trying to kick out one of the House Democrats' most conservative members on Tuesday. Seven-term Rep. Daniel Lipinski, who represents the southwest area of Chicago, is facing a primary challenge from Marie Newman, who is backed by progressive groups that have put more than $1 million behind her.

The Human Rights Campaign, NARAL, Emily's List, Planned Parenthood's political arm, MoveOn and SEIU have chipped in to air some $1.6 million worth of ads and mailers attacking Lipinski and boosting Newman, in addition to some $50,000 of Spanish-language ads to target the district's Spanish-speaking voters.

Their biggest gripes: that Lipinski voted against Obamacare in 2010, opposed raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, is antiabortion and hasn't, in the eyes of some party activists, opposed President Trump's immigration ideas vociferously enough.

“This is a Democrat who is voting like a conservative Republican, focused on attacking people on social issues,” said Ben Needham, director of the Human Rights Campaign's strategic initiatives.

Tuesday's primary is also a test of how engaged the Democratic base is. Liberals hope that the coalition that voted for Hillary Clinton over Trump (in the 2016 presidential election by 15 points in the district) will vote in high numbers to kick Lipinski out.

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