The Democratic-led Illinois legislature has approved a new congressional map that seals Democrats’ political advantage in the state for the next decade while forcing four Republican and two Democratic incumbents into potential primaries against one another.
A previous version of this article reported that Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker had signed the redistricting bill into law. He has not yet signed it. The article has been corrected.
The final map shifts freshman Rep. Marie Newman (D) into a new majority Latino district currently held by Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García (D), who is in his second term. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R) would share a district with Rep. Darin LaHood (R), as would GOP Reps. Mary E. Miller and Mike Bost.
Hours after the legislature approved the map, Kinzinger announced in a five-minute video that he would not run for reelection. “Let me be clear, my passion for this country has only grown. . . . My disappointment in the leaders that don’t lead is huge,” he said.
The map that passed the state legislature with only Democratic support had been tweaked several times over intraparty concerns about who was paired against whom and whether the growing numbers of Latino voters were adequately represented.
An earlier iteration had pitted Newman against Rep. Sean Casten (D), both considered rising stars in the Democratic Party. But the final version gave Casten his own safe Democratic seat after a concentrated push by his political allies.
Newman, who beat longtime conservative Democratic Rep. Daniel Lipinski in the 2020 primary, voiced her displeasure over the map, issuing a statement calling it “a clear attempt to appease one person and a small handful of affluent insiders at the expense of workers and working families on Chicago’s Southwest Side and suburbs.”
Casten also released a statement that passed no judgment on the map itself.
“Each decade our state assembly has an important constitutional obligation to ensure Illinoisans have congressional representation that reflects the vast geography and diversity of our state,” he said, adding that he would continue to fight for his constituents.
Illinois lost a seat in Congress in the census’s reapportionment based on population gains. The current 18-member delegation is 13 Democrats and five Republicans. The new map adds an additional seat for Democrats and takes two from Republicans, creating a 14-to-3 party breakdown.
Later, Newman announced that despite her home being drawn into Garcia’s district, she would run against Casten in his new district, noting that it contained swaths of her former one.
“The lion’s share of this new district is made up of the communities and residents I represent today and I look forward to continuing to serve them in Congress,” she said.
Kinzinger, who is among the most vocal congressional Republicans against Donald Trump, was already going to face a tough reelection given the likelihood that his opposition to the former president would invite a primary challenge. Now, if he had sought reelection, that challenge would have come from another incumbent who is far friendlier to the Trump base of the party.
Republicans have assailed Illinois Democrats for what they call a blatant partisan gerrymander and said they intend to sue. They have attacked Pritzker for going back on campaign promises not to sign overly partisan maps.
“Illinois Democrats and Governor Pritzker have shown with their proposed map that they care more about doing the bidding of Nancy Pelosi than giving Illinois voters fair representation in Washington,” LaHood said in a statement last week. “The proposed maps are a slap in the face to good governance everywhere. Illinois voters deserve much better than this non-transparent, corrupt process.”
Democrats hold a razor-thin majority in the House, and the flip of just a handful of seats in the 2022 midterms would cost them the majority for the last two years of President Biden’s term.
Illinois is one of the few larger states where Democrats control both chambers of the state legislature and the governorship and have kept the job of redrawing congressional and legislative districts. Other big Democratic-controlled states, such as California, Colorado and Virginia, have independent redistricting commissions. New York has an advisory redistricting commission that takes the first stab at drawing the maps, but the Democrats in the state legislature can override it and draw their own.
Overall, Republicans have the greater redistricting advantage, controlling the process in states that added seats — notably Texas, Florida and North Carolina — as well as Georgia and Ohio. They can unilaterally draw the maps in 22 states, while Democrats can do so in nine.
Last week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed into law a new congressional map that eliminates competitive districts to create a firewall around GOP incumbents in a rapidly diversifying state.