CHICAGO (CBS) — Two conservative Republican candidates have been working hard to reclaim two seats in suburban congressional districts that have traditionally gone their way, but have been represented by Democrats for the past two years.
As the GOP tries to get the 6th and 14th congressional district seats back, the Democrats can’t afford to lose them as they try to hold their majority in the House of Representatives.
U.S. Reps. Sean Casten and Lauren Underwood (D-Illinois) were unopposed in the Democratic primaries back in March, after both won traditionally Republican seats in 2018.
Former Illinois State Rep. Jeanne Ives, of Wheaton, is taking on Casten in the 6th Congressional District – a vast district that includes large parts of DuPage and Kane counties and also extends north to include southwest Lake and southeast McHenry counties.
Casten beat incumbent Peter Roskam two years ago in the 6th Congressional District, which had been represented by a Republican since 1973.
Ives, a three-term state representative who left office in 2019, was one of the most conservative members of the Illinois General Assembly. Two years ago, Ives nearly defeated incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner in the Republican primary.
In campaigning for reelection, Casten’s campaign touts his background as a “respected scientist” and clean energy entrepreneur.
“Washington isn’t working for our families for a simple reason: Facts are taking a back seat to politics when informing policy. That’s just wrong. Sean knows that facts matter, and ignoring facts is a sure way to hurt people. His facts-first approach to every issue is informed by data, expert input, and the reality we face,” the Casten campaign website reads.
Health care, the right to vote, racial justice, women’s rights and opportunity, LGBTQ rights, gun safety, immigration reform, and energy and climate change policy are among the issues on which Casten’s campaign has focused.
A CBS 2 analysis found that the Casten campaign had about $2 million in cash on hand as of late October. A huge portion of that comes from the progressive online fundraising site ActBlue, which has contributed more than $1.8 million. The rest of his top contributors are all Democratic political action committees.
Casten’s campaign has spent about $3.2 million since 2019. The single biggest recipient of Casten campaign funds is the Democratic digital strategy firm Break Something.
Meanwhile, Ives – in responses to policy questions asked by the Chicago Tribune that she reproduced on her website, wrote that the highest priority is “to restore the rule of law throughout the nation and Illinois.” She focused both on civil unrest that has transpired this year and political corruption.
“The last few months have been unsettling for Americans as we have watched as lawlessness spread across the nation. Looters and rioters destroyed property, illegally occupied and controlled public grounds, upended livelihoods, and unnerved many who no longer feel safe in their own communities,” Ives wrote. “In Illinois, lawlessness extends from our most powerful politicians, their special interest friends, and the lobbyists who grease the skids between the two, to the streets of Chicago overrun with murder, looting and criminal damage to property, to the suburbs where armed home invasions and carjacking have happened.”
Ives also wrote that “the Chinese Communist Party poses the biggest threat to our nation and the world” and called for “a full investigation into the origins and spread of the COVID 19 virus, repayment for costs related to the crisis, and no-notice international inspections of their biological research laboratories.”
Ives’ campaign has far less cash on hand than Casten’s – only about $227,081. Her top funding source, similarly to Casten, is WinRed — the GOP’s answer to ActBlue.
Her campaign has spent about $2.8 million since 2016. Axiom Strategies, which seems to focus on Republican legislative races, has received the largest share of that money.
Meantime, Illinois State Sen. Jim Oberweis, owner of Oberweis Dairy, is seeking to unseat Underwood in the 14th Congressional District – which is also located west of the immediate Chicago area and includes parts of Lake, McHenry, Kane, DeKalb, Kendall, DuPage, and Will counties from the southern boundary of Kendall County north to the Wisconsin state line.
Underwood defeated incumbent Randy Hultgren in the 14th District in 2018, taking away a seat that had been held by the GOP for all but three years since 1939.
Oberweis has been a state senator since 2013, and has mounted failed bids for the U.S. Senate in 2002, 2004, and 2014; for governor in 2006, and for Congress in 2008.
In her campaign for a second term, Underwood touted her achievements in the House in health care – particularly amid the COVID-19 pandemic – as well as climate action, “cleaning up Washington,” reproductive freedom, preventing gun violence, and other subjects.
“During her first term in Congress, Lauren has hosted more than 25 public town hall meetings and 135 community events across the seven counties of the 14th District. She has passed four bipartisan pieces of legislation into law, including the Lower Insulin Costs Now Act to make lower-cost, generic insulin available more quickly for the families who rely on it,” the Underwood campaign website reads. “Since her swearing-in, Lauren has voted to support federal programs that brought over $1 billion dollars to the 14th to fund small business loans, cutting edge science at Fermilab, and other grants and federal contracts that support good jobs and services in our community.”
As of late October, Underwood’s campaign had about $1.8 million in cash on hand. Like many Democratic candidates, Underwood has received a large amount of money from ActBlue.
Underwood’s campaign has spent about $5.3 million since 2019. One of her campaign’s biggest recipients is Berger Hisrchberg, which handles somewhat bigger clients than the firms hired by the 6th Congressional District candidates. The firm touts it has raised more than $2 million for New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Oberweis, whose campaign website calls on supporters to help the GOP take back the House, addresses among other things border security, government spending, and a warning about “socialism.”
“It has become increasingly fashionable for Washington politicians to embrace socialism. Jim knows the inherent dangers of adopting socialist ideas – from wealth redistribution schemes to job-killing tax plans. Our nation was founded on the ideas of free enterprise and innovation, and Jim will support policies that enhance the free market and allow inventors, innovators, and job-creators to thrive. Socialism fails everywhere it is implemented, stifling creativity and freedom,” Oberweis’ campaign website reads. “Jim has been a staunch supporter of the free market in the state legislature and in his work in the private sector, and he will continue to champion the free market once elected to Congress.”
Oberweis had about $700,000 cash on hand as of late October. He is largely self-funding his campaign and has spent more than $1 million since the beginning of last year.
His campaign has spent about $2.3 million since 2017. Oberweis is also the biggest recipient of his campaign funds, receiving more than $500,000 in 2019. The reason for the expenditures is well-documented – including travel, fundraiser tickets, office supplies and other such needs.