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U.S. and state Senate races highlight Illinois primary in this area

Southern Illinois' congressional districts 2016

On March 15, Illinois residents will find more on their ballots that presidential candidates. Voters will also elect the candidates for its November general election.

Here's an outline of some of the major races in the area. 

Congressional races

Two area Republican U.S. representatives have primary challengers.

In the 13th district, incumbent Rodney Davis faces Ethan Vandersand, a pharmacist from Carrollton.

This race is not projected to be close and one reason is money. At the end of 2015, Davis’ campaign had $962,000 on hand while Vandersand had just $17,500.

The 15th district has a contest between 10-term incumbent John Shimkus and state Sen. Kyle McCarter.

McCarter is running to Shimkus’ right, hitting him on issues like his vote for the latest omnibus spending bill and for not defunding Planned Parenthood while touting endorsements from conservative groups like the Eagle Forum and the Club for Growth (who’s running ads for him). He’s labeled Shimkus as a “career politician,” accusing him of breaking his own promise to term-limit himself.  

Shimkus holds a massive money edge over his opponent, with $995,864 on hand compared to McCarter’s $106,985, according to the latest campaign finance reports. 

There are no primary contests in the 12th or 18th congressional districts.

A three-way Democratic U.S. Senate primary

Political pundits point to Illinois’ U.S. Senate seat as one that could switch parties in November, and an intense primary is underway among three Democratic candidates to challenge the likely Republican, incumbent Mark Kirk.

Kirk has one primary challenger, entrepreneur James Marter of Oswego, but is expected to advance easily to the general election.

On the Democratic side, the candidates include U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, former CEO and president of the Chicago Urban League Andrea Zopp and former NFL linebacker and state Sen. Napoleon Harris. 

Duckworth, who has represented suburban Chicago since 2013, is considered the favorite.

A mid-February poll from The Simon Center of more than 400 likely Democratic voters shows Duckworth with 52 percent of the vote compared Zopp’s 6 percent and Harris’s 4 percent. Thirty seven percent said they were undecided.  

Duckworth also holds a massive fundraising edge over her opponents with more than $3.5 million in the bank and has received endorsements from U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and major unions.  

Duckworth, a purple heart Iraq war veteran who lost both legs during deployment in 2004, has highlighted her military career and past work in the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs while running a campaign focused on Kirk and the general election. 

Zopp has charged that Duckworth hasn’t done enough for the African-American community and has touted her endorsements from Jesse Jackson and other black leaders.

Harris, who represents part of Cook County in the state’s 15th district is running a “grassroots campaign” focused on education funding, jobs and development, and raising the minimum wage, according to his website.

58th Senate District to set up competitive general election

Sharee Langenstein, left, and Paul Schimpf
Credit Photos provided by campaigns
Sharee Langenstein, left, and Paul Schimpf

Two southern Illinois lawyers are vying to be the Republican nominee for the open senate seat being vacated by long-time Republican Sen. Dave Luechtefeld.

The 58th district includes parts of eight counties, including St. Clair and Monroe counties. 

Running is Paul Schimpf of Waterloo and Sharee Langenstein of Murphysboro. Both consider themselves political outsiders, and neither has held public office before.

A Naval Academy grad, Schimpf served in the Marines until 2013, most recently as a military lawyer and is now in private practice. Langenstein is a constitutional lawyer who recently represented presidential candidate Ted Cruz in Illinois in a lawsuit regarding his citizenship.

Illinois' 58th state senatorial district is in white
Credit Illinois state Board of Elections
Illinois' 58th state senatorial district is in white

Schimpf was the Republican nominee for Illinois Attorney General in 2014 but lost handily while Langenstein ran unsuccessfully for Jackson County State’s Attorney in 2012.

While their backgrounds are similar, the two have diverged on the campaign trail.

Schimpf’s campaign has a narrow focus. “My two priorities are getting our fiscal house in order, that involves the budget and the pensions, but also bringing good paying jobs to southern Illinois,” he said in a telephone interview.  

Schimpf, who has received Luechtenfeld’s endorsement, says he’s running a campaign geared toward the general election.

“My focus has always been on letting people know who I am, what I stand for, why I should be the person they choose to represent in Springfield.”

Langenstein has also focused on the state budget and jobs, but has also campaigned extensively on the issues of abortion and gun rights.

She says she’s the only pro-life candidate in the race and alleges Schimpf ducked her invitation for a debate.

Her campaign had just $2,732 cash on hand at the end of last year compared to Schimpf’s $48,990. She admits she faces an uphill battle in fundraising yet believes her campaign infrastructure is enough to win.

“I am confident I am going to win this race because I have a huge grassroots network of people who are tired of the way things are going on in Springfield,” she said in a telephone interview.

She’s received the endorsement of the Chicago Tribune.

The primary winner will take on Sheila Simon in November, in what is slated to be a competitive and expensive race. Simon is the former Illinois lieutenant governor and is the daughter of former U.S. Sen. Paul Simon.

Follow Nathan on Twitter: @NateRub