Although every seat in the General Assembly is up for grabs in November, many Illinois voters may see only one or two truly competitive races on their ballots when they head to the polls.
With Labor Day just around the corner and the national political conventions starting this week, here’s a look at some of the key match-ups already unfolding.
In the 48th Senate District, Democrat Andy Manar and Republican Mike McElroy are fighting to represent a district that includes all or parts of Decatur, Springfield, Taylorville and Pana.
Manar is the former mayor of Bunker Hill. He chairs the Macoupin County Board. And, he’s got support from a major legislative player, having previously served as chief of staff to Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago. Expect Cullerton to make an occasional fundraising pit stop in the countdown to Election Day.
Manar’s connections to the Capitol are already paying dividends. He’s received $40,000 since July 1 from the Service Employees International Union, $5,000 from the Illinois Education Association and another $5,000 from the state Medical Society.
The early infusion of cash has helped Manar be the first to get an ad on TV, hoping to reverse some polling numbers that show he’s trailing the Decatur mayor.
But McElroy, who is an executive at a beer distributor, is getting help from some deep-pocketed contributors, too. Conservative businessmen Richard Uihlein and Jack Roeser have chipped in a total of $15,000 to his campaign coffers.
Other potentially tough Senate races include the 36th District tilt between state Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, and Republican Bill Albracht of Moline, and the 59th District fracas featuring state Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, and Republican pastor Mark Minor of Benton.
Roeser and Uihlein also have put money on Minor’s campaign, but Forby had a massive fundraising advantage as of July 1 with $360,000 in his campaign account, compared to about $3,100 for Minor.
The Quad-Cities clash is notable because the GOP is hoping to win in a district that has been represented by a Jacobs for a quarter century.
In the House, Democrats are eyeing the 96th District as a possible pickup. Sue Scherer, a teacher from Decatur, is raking in the campaign cash in her contest against Rochester businessman Dennis Shackelford.
Scherer, who is backed by House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, had $30,000 in her campaign account July 1. That doesn’t count a $15,000 contribution by the SEIU on Aug. 10. Shackelford reported just $7,000 in his war chest as of July 1.
In the Quad-Cities, Republican Neil Anderson of Rock Island is hoping to oust state Rep. Pat Verschoore, D-Milan.
Republicans are dumping cash and personnel into Anderson’s bid, but Verschoore still holds a commanding fundraising advantage.
CONGRESS IN PLAY, TOO: Let’s not forget three hot downstate skirmishes for the U.S. House.
Republican Jason Plummer, a 30-year-old lumber company scion who was Bill Brady’s running mate on the 2010 gubernatorial ticket, is seeking to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello in the newly configured 12th Congressional District.
Standing in his way is William Enyart, 62, who served as adjutant general of the Illinois National Guard.
The age difference could become a campaign issue in the race.
In the 13th Congressional District, Republican Tim Johnson’s decision to retire has opened the door to a potential battle royal between Republican Rodney Davis of Taylorville and Democrat David Gill of Bloomington.
Democrats think Gill may have a chance in his fourth try because of the district’s new boundaries, which include Democratic parts of the University of Illinois and Illinois State University, as well as Decatur.
Davis, who got off to a late start, isn’t going to the GOP national convention in order to spend more time with the voters in the district.
In the Quad-Cities, Democrat Cheri Bustos is challenging freshman Republican Bobby Schilling, who rode to victory in 2010 on the strength of the Tea Party. The district stretches to Rockford in the northeast to Peoria in the south.
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A recent poll showed Obama may not fare as well in his home state as he did four years ago.