Election Day is fast approach. In fact, early voting in Sangamon County begins September 29th. This year, many members of the UIS community, those who are registered to vote in Illinois’s 13th congressional district, will have the relatively unique opportunity of electing a new representative to the U.S. House of Representatives. Most of us were previously represented by either Rodney Davis (IL 13) or Darin LaHood (IL 18), but after the 2020 Census and corresponding congressional redistricting process, Illinois’s 13th congressional district was left without an incumbent. Now, two new candidates, Democrat Nikki Budzinski and Republican Regan Deering, are running to represent Illinois 13.
On her website, Budzinski highlights her previous service as a senior advisor to Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker and as Chief of Staff for the White House Office of Management and Budget under President Biden. She was born in Peoria, Illinois and attended the University of Illinois Champaign. Budzinski defeated David Palmer by a margin of 75.6% to 24.4% in the Democratic primary to become the Democratic nominee.
Deering highlights her previous experience as an educator, a small business owner, and an active philanthropist. She is from Decatur, Illinois and received a B.S. in Biology from Duke University and a M.Ed. from DePaul University. Deering faced a tougher path to the Republican nomination. She won 34.6% of the vote in the Republican primary and defeated three other candidates, Jesse Reising (33%), Matt Hausman (23.9%), and Terry Martin (8.9%).
Incumbents to the U.S. House of Representatives typically win reelection at very high rates. According to Open Secrets, in 2018, about 91% of U.S. House incumbents who ran for reelection won and in 2020, about 95% of U.S. House incumbents who sought reelection won. However, the lack of an incumbent is only one factor that makes the race to represent Illinois 13 one of the more competitive U.S. House elections in Illinois. Following the 2020 Census, the Democratic Party had control over the redistricting process in Illinois. As a result, Illinois’s 13th congressional district, which almost runs the width of the entire state and includes both the St. Louis suburbs and Champaign, was drawn to give the Democratic Party an upper hand in the district. One estimate reported by election analyst Nathan Gonzalez at Roll Call suggests President Biden would have won the district with about 54% of the vote in 2020.
However, even though the boundaries of the 13th congressional district likely give the Democratic Party a slight advantage in this particularly race, at least if voting trends remain relatively stable to those of the past few election cycles, midterm elections are normally an uphill battle for an incumbent president’s political party. In 2018, the Republican Party lost 40 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and control of the chamber. Similarly, in 2010, which were the first midterms President Obama faced while in office, the Democratic Party lost 63 seats and control of the U.S. House of Representatives. While there is disagreement among political scientists as to the exact causes of this trend, only twice since WWII has the president’s political party gained seats in the U.S. House of Representatives during a midterm election cycle. Based on the history of midterm losses for an incumbent president’s political party and current high rates of inflation, many election analysts predict the Republican Party will win control of the House of Representatives in 2022. Additionally, if 2022 is a strong year for the Republican Party, that reinforces the likelihood that the election to represent Illinois’s 13th congressional district will be particularly competitive.
Despite initially looking like a challenging election cycle for Democratic candidates, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization to overturn the federal precedent protecting abortion rights has changed the way many analysts and politicians are viewing the 2022 midterms. Since this ruling, many states have enacted strict abortion bans, while other states have responded by trying to further protect abortion rights. While the public’s views on abortion are polarizing in general, public opinion of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision appears to be negative. One PEW Research poll conducted in late June and early July, found 57% of respondents disapproved of the Supreme Court’s decision and the number of Democrats who strongly disagreed with the decision outnumbered the number of Republicans who strongly supported the decision. In light of these recent events, one of the Democratic Party’s electoral strategies has been to try to reframe the 2022 midterms elections from being about the economy to being about abortion access. Both Budzinski’s and Deering’s websites, as well as other recent reporting, reveals abortion rights are one of several policy areas that differentiate the candidates running to represent Illinois 13.
Overall, elections are about who voters want to shape public policy and our current political and economic climate present high stakes for the 2022 midterm elections. Moreover, the circumstances surrounding Illinois’s new 13th congressional district suggests we should expect a close race between Budzinski and Deering. If you are interested in learning more about Budzinksi and Deering and their views on the important policy issues at stake in 2022, Illinois Public Media and WAND-TV will be hosting a debate between the candidates on October 6th.
“About.” Regan Deering for Congress. https://regan4congress.com/about/ (September 28, 2022).
Cortes, Lexi. 2022. “What Action Would Candidates for Illinois 13th Congressional District Take on Abortion?” STLPR. https://news.stlpublicradio.org/government-politics-issues/2022-09-10/what-action-would-candidates-for-illinois-13th-congressional-district-take-on-abortion (September 28, 2022).
“Election 2022.” Illinois Public Media. https://will.illinois.edu/election (September 28, 2022).
“Elections | Vote Absentee | Sangamon County.” https://countyclerk.sangamonil.gov/elections/vote/absentee.aspx (September 28, 2022).
Gonzales, Nathan L. 2022. “What’s a Dummymander? Illinois May Tell Us.” Roll Call. https://rollcall.com/2022/03/01/whats-a-dummymander-illinois-may-tell-us/ (September 28, 2022).
“Issues.” Nikki for Congress. https://nikkiforcongress.com/issues/ (September 28, 2022).
“Issues.” Regan Deering for Congress. https://regan4congress.com/issues/ (September 28, 2022).
McCammon, Sarah. 2022. “Two Months after the Dobbs Ruling, New Abortion Bans Are Taking Hold.” NPR. https://www.npr.org/2022/08/23/1118846811/two-months-after-the-dobbs-ruling-new-abortion-bans-are-taking-hold (September 28, 2022).
“Meet Nikki.” Nikki for Congress. https://nikkiforcongress.com/about/ (September 28, 2022).
Nikki for Congress. https://nikkiforcongress.com/ (September 28, 2022).
PEW Research. 2022. “Majority of Public Disapproves of Supreme Court’s Decision To Overturn Roe v. Wade.” Pew Research Center - U.S. Politics & Policy. https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2022/07/06/majority-of-public-disapproves-of-supreme-courts-decision-to-overturn-roe-v-wade/ (September 28, 2022).
Prokop, Andrew. 2022. “The Presidential Penalty.” Vox. https://www.vox.com/22899204/midterm-elections-president-biden-thermostatic-opinion (June 13, 2022).
“Reelection Rates Over the Years.” OpenSecrets. https://www.opensecrets.org/elections-overview/reelection-rates (September 28, 2022).
Regan Deering for Congress. https://regan4congress.com/ (September 28, 2022).
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Dr. Matthew Geras, Assistant Professor in the UIS School of Politics & International Affairs, holds a Ph.D in Political Science from the University of Oklahoma, where he spent five years as a graduate fellow at the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center. Dr Geras’s research interests include candidates and competition in congressional elections, political institutions, specifically Congress and political parties, and representation. His research has been published in Party Politics, State Politics and Policy Quarterly, Political Research Quarterly, Social Science Quarterly, and Congress and the Presidency. At UIS, Dr Geras teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses on American politics and research methods.