Pre-Primary Special: Illinois Contests Get Wild

Mar 15, 2016

Credit Macon County

Illinois' primary contest is rapidly approaching, which is why NPR Illinois is bringing you this Illinois Edition pre-primary special (which aired Wed., March 9). 

This election cycle is wild, and not just at the top of the ticket --- though Illinois has already seen presidential candidates including Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and Republicans Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Donald Trump stop by.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has already, presumably, cast his vote for one of the remaining Republicans --- he early voted in Arlington Heights a weekend in early March.

He didn't endorse anyone, and when asked refused to say who he supports.

"I'll let you know when I think it's my job to state something," he told reporters. "I have specifically carefully avoided making commentary about the Presidential election."

But the governor -- directly, and in cases indirectly -- has propped up candidates for the state legislature.

As Statehouse Bureau Chief -- what interests me -- are the wild goings-on in races for the State House, and Senate:

-One candidate alleges supporters of his opponent took a staple gun and bottle to his head outside his Chicago campaign office. -Another Democratic primary could lead to Illinois' first ever Asian American legislator: Theresa Mah's a former professor who helped campaign for all of Chicago's Chinatown to be in one district, versus split into several. Now, she wants to represent Chinatown. She's facing off against a prominent Latino, Alex Acevedo. The son of retiring State Rep. Eddie Acevedo is trying to win his father's seat --- literally.

In this show, though, we'll hear about a few other races, including one in which:

-The President of the United States has even gotten involved.

-Big money's being spent to knock out the longtime House Speaker.

-A downstate Senate Republican race (between incumbent Sam McCann and state trooper Bryce Benton) that's become a test case on Gov. Bruce Rauner's agenda, and the power of money (by the time the primary rolls around, at least $3 million) in policies.

And, first: I called someone to help give some perspective on the cash that's flowing into that, and other campaigns: Scott Kennedy, who operates a website called Illinois Election Data, "where we try to keep an eye on data pertaining to elections." Kennedy calls this "fun." You can check out his website for all sorts of information. Kennedy helped give a primer on something that's happened on several big races this cycle, in which caps were lifted from campaign contributions.