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Illinois Primary: Who Will Take on Blagojevich?

Voters in Illinois today will choose party nominees for governor and representatives in 19 congressional districts. Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) is a heavy favorite over his Democratic primary opponent, and state Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka (R) appears to be his likely rival in the fall. Only a few House primaries are worth watching, with the open 6th District race leading the pack.

Here's a quick look at what to watch for.

* Republican gubernatorial primary: This is a crowded field as a number of Republicans see the ethics problems swirling around the Blagojevich administration as a potential winning issue despite the state's Democratic tilt. As we mentioned above, Topinka is the best-known candidate in the field and has led in polling throughout, bolstered by an endorsement spot by popular former Gov. Jim Edgar. Wealthy businessmen Ron Gidwitz and Jim Oberweis have been pouring their own money into the race in the final days, but state Sen. Bill Brady is the one moving in late tracking polls, according to one source familiar with the survey research. Whoever wins faces an intriguing challenge in Blagojevich. While polls show him under 50 percent, he is sitting on a $15 million campaign war chest -- a huge financial gap to make up for either the GOP nominee or the Republican Governors Association.

* Illinois 6th District: Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) has a lot on the line in the primary between 2004 nominee Christine Cegelis and Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth. Emanuel personally recruited Duckworth into the open-seat contest to replace retiring Rep. Henry Hyde (R) and has helped direct considerable national dollars to her campaign -- including an e-mail appeal from Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry. As a result, Duckworth had raised $518,000 through March 1 and had $122,000 in the bank. Cegelis had raised a respectable $320,000 by the first of the month with $75,000 left to spend. The Democratic nominee will face off against state Sen. Peter Roskam, who has enjoyed support from the party establishment in the state and Washington for months. The district went narrowly to President Bush in 2004 -- 53 percent to 47 percent.

* Illinois 8th District: Republicans see freshman Rep. Melissa Bean (D) as the single most endangered Democratic incumbent in the country. Their optimism is largely due to the strongly GOP nature of the district, which gave Bush 56 percent of the vote in 2004. A crowded primary field is lining up to face Bean, with businessman David McSweeney and attorney Kathy Salvi emerging as the twin frontrunners. Bean has given whichever Republican wins very few openings with her voting record. And to defeat her, Republicans will need to buy time in the costly Chicago media market. Bean had a whopping $1.5 million in the bank at the start of March.

Reminder: The Fix is on vacation this week. My editors will post Illinois primary results here tomorrow morning.

By Chris Cillizza  |  March 21, 2006; 11:07 AM ET
Categories:  Governors , House  
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This is a test of the emergency blog posting system.

Posted by: Never mind me | March 22, 2006 7:05 AM | Report abuse

Headline: Duckworth Wins, Internuts Now 0-for-129

Posted by: Silent Cal | March 22, 2006 12:42 AM | Report abuse

Judy Baar Topinka and her corrupt lobbyist crony Bob Kjellander are the biggest crooks in all of Illinois. The Republican Party is crazy to nominate her for Governor. It's just idiotic.

Posted by: OJ Simpson | March 21, 2006 11:10 PM | Report abuse

Blagojevich is going in with a 41% approval rating according to the last Survey USA approval poll.

Rasmussen has him with leads over all four possible Republican candidates by an average of 46% - 34%. With $15 M headstart, it will be a serious drain on national GOP resources to overcome but Dems would be more comfortable if his approval ratings inched up closer to 50%.

Posted by: RMill | March 21, 2006 4:08 PM | Report abuse

I think the question arises when you have the head of the DCCC from a given state and then they funnel support behind their hand picked candidates in a primary. Its fine to recruit people, and its fine to endorse them, but don't throw the DCCC money against another Democrat. Though, I'd be happy to support Duckworth if she wins the primary, Dems just like to consider themselves the party of challenging the establishment.

Posted by: RCDennis | March 21, 2006 3:20 PM | Report abuse

I don't mean this as a criticism necessarily, but why does every progressive who posts anywhere on the net seem to hate Duckworth? She's actually an incredibly impressive person and candidate and has a much better chance of winning that district than Cegelis.

If it's simply b/c someone in the "establishment" picked her, then that's a little confusing to me. One of the most common criticism of Democrats is that they're LESS organized and disciplined than Republicans historically. Yet now that the Party leadership is trying to implement a centralized strategy, the complaint seems to be that the leadership is TOO involved.

There's nothing wrong with disagreeing with the party's leadership, but the fact that they have a different view than some grass roots folks doesn't mean they wrong or bad either. Ultimately, the focus should really be on winning elections.

Posted by: Colin | March 21, 2006 1:34 PM | Report abuse

The Dem party establishment is bizarre. Sabotaging Hackhett but pulling out the stops for Duckworth - and showing contempt for the voters every step of the way.

Posted by: Intrepid Liberal Journal | March 21, 2006 12:15 PM | Report abuse

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