U.S. Rep. Sean Casten of Illinois' 6th District has won reelection after GOP challenger Keith Pekau conceded Tuesday night.
Just west of Chicago, Democrat Casten was running for reelection against Republican Pekau, also the mayor of Orland Park, a town about 30 miles southwest of Chicago. In a show of last-minute support, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy campaigned with Pekau at a fundraising event outside of Chicago four days before the election.
Casten had raised and spent over four times more than his opponent on his quest for a third term, according to the Federal Election Commission.
Casten, whose 17-year-old daughter, Gwen, died in June of cardiac arrhythmia, said the race was difficult personally and politically. Tearing up, Casten recalled taking the stage to announce his victory in 2020 with Gwen by his side and the political strife of the last two years in a polarized Congress.
"Part of the why it feels so good to have won tonight is because I needed this reminder – as (the late Congressman) Elijah Cummings used to tell us – that we are better than this," Casten said.
Pekau addressed his supporters after conceding Tuesday night.
"Frankly, I don’t know where the state goes from here," Pekau said. "I don’t see much of a path forward. But here’s what I do know: I am still the Mayor of Orland Park, the best town in the Southwest Suburbs. I will continue to be Mayor and do everything we can to keep Orland Park safe, drive our economy forward, and to make it a place where people want to live."
The former scientist soundly defeated incumbent Rep. Marie Newman for the Democratic nomination, after redistricting merged their districts.
Tuesday’s U.S. House race in Illinois’ newly redrawn 17th district could be key to whether Democrats hang on to their slim majority in the U.S. House, as rookies battle to fill the vacancy left by retired Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos.
The district stretches from Rockford in the north to Peoria and Bloomington in central Illinois.
Illinois lost one of its 18 House seats after the 2020 census. Democrats, who control state government and redistricting in Illinois, received pushback for the new maps from Republicans and beyond.
Esther Joy King, a lawyer who serves in the Army Reserve, is the Republican candidate in the district. In 2020, King came within a few percentage points of ousting Bustos, who was running for a fifth term.
Top on King’s priority list are agriculture and bipartisan cooperation, which she says are key to serving the district’s needs.
King faces Democrat Eric Sorensen, a Rockford native who worked as a meteorologist in Rockford and the Quad Cities for nearly 20 years.
For Sorensen, whose tagline is "Forecasting a Bright Future for Illinois," addressing inflation and shoring up reproductive rights are the foremost issues.
He is calling for bipartisan efforts to bring down costs for food, healthcare and gas, and says he disagrees with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which struck down constitutional protection for abortion. Safe and legal abortion is a reproductive right and constitutes a healthcare matter between a woman and her doctor, according to Sorensen.
His campaign clashed with King’s over the issue when a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee advertisement claimed King’s pro-life stance would ban abortions in Illinois, even in cases of rape or incest.
King said during an Oct. 3 debate that she supports exceptions in cases of rape, incest, or threat to the life of the mother, and would oppose a federal abortion ban.
The race for the 13th district — which spans Champaign, Decatur and Springfield in central Illinois down to east St. Louis in the southwest — has also garnered attention. Redistricting bumped incumbent Rep. Rodney Davis into a different district, where he lost to Rep. Mary Miller, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump.
Democrat Nikki Budzinski from Peoria defeated Republican Regan Deering of Decatur for the district seat.
The opportunity to represent Central and Southern Illinoisans is Budzinski’s "greatest honor," according to a statement from her campaign office announcing her victory.
"We have a lot of work to do – families are struggling today, and they deserve a champion in Congress that will be laser focused on reducing costs so they can get ahead," she said, affirming her commitment to reaching across the aisle to "achieve real results."
Budzinski is a labor activist, former Biden administration staffer and senior adviser to Gov. J.B. Pritzker. She ran on rebuilding the middle class.
"Working people are struggling right now with rising costs, and I want to go to Congress to be their fighter," she said in an Oct. 6 debate, where she expressed support for protecting Medicare and Social Security, a woman’s right to choose and funding for public schools.
She defeated Deering, a philanthropist and former educator, who prioritized securing the U.S. border with Mexico and reining in "reckless spending."
Democratic Reps. Bill Foster and Lauren Underwood won reelection bids Tuesday night against their Republican counterparts.
The new boundaries of the 11th District take it from Bolingbrook in Will County through Naperville, Aurora, and Batavia north to McHenry County and northwest nearly to Rockford. Some of it is new territory for five-term, Democratic incumbent Bill Foster, an entrepreneur, and the only PhD physicist in Congress.
At age 67, Foster defeated 29-year-old Catalina Lauf, a MAGA Republican appointed by former President Donald Trump to a job in the Commerce Department. Her mother is a Guatemalan immigrant.
Underwood defeated 39-year-old Republican Scott Gryder, chairman of the Kendall County Board.
President Joe Biden stumped for Underwood in the 14th District this past weekend.
Biden campaigned in Illinois in previous elections for Underwood, who four years ago became the youngest Black woman ever to serve in the U.S. House.
As of a couple weeks ago, Underwood had outspent Gryder by better than ten-to-one, having raised more than $5 million.
Democratic state Rep. Delia Ramirez in Chicago's 3rd District became the first Latina in Illinois’ Congressional delegation with a win over Republican Justin Burau.
She garnered over 66 percent of the vote.
What to expect on election night
Polls closed at 7 p.m. local time.
HOW ILLINOIS VOTES
Illinois voters are increasingly casting their ballots before Election Day, either by mail or in person at voting centers. During the pandemic in 2020, two-thirds of Illinois voters voted either by mail or early, but a third of voters already had made the switch away from in-person election-day voting in the two previous elections.
While most Illinois counties are strongly Republican, election results are dominated by overwhelmingly Democratic Chicago, the strongly Democratic Cook County suburbs and the more middle-of-the-road "collar counties" surrounding Chicago. More than a quarter of the electorate lives in Chicago and Cook County alone, making those the counties to watch in statewide races.
AP will tabulate votes in 150 races, including one for U.S. Senate, 17 for U.S. House, as well as governor, four other statewide offices and a statewide ballot measure. In the 2020 presidential election, the first votes were reported at 8:09 p.m. local time and the state reached 90% of the vote counted in the evening of the day after election day.
AP does not make projections or name apparent or likely winners. Only when AP is fully confident a race has been won – defined most simply as the moment a trailing candidate no longer has a path to victory – will we make a call. Should a candidate declare victory – or offer a concession – before AP calls a race, we will cover newsworthy developments in our reporting. In doing so, we will make clear that AP has not yet declared a winner and explain the reason why we believe the race is too early or too close to call. The AP may call a statewide or U.S. House race in which the margin between the top two candidates is 0.5% or less, if we determine the lead is too large for a recount to change the outcome.
The AP will not call down-ballot races on election night if the margin between the top two candidates is less than 2%. AP will revisit those races later in the week to confirm there aren’t enough outstanding votes left to count that could change the outcome.
WHAT ELSE SHOULD I KNOW?
Q: WHAT’S CHANGED SINCE THE PANDEMIC ELECTION OF 2020?
A: Illinois has taken one more step to make it easier to vote by mail, giving voters the option to automatically receive a mail ballot in future elections.
Q: WHAT DO TURNOUT AND ADVANCE VOTE LOOK LIKE?
A: More than 6 million Illinoisans voted in the 2020 presidential election, and 4.6 million turned out for the governor’s election in 2018. Turnout is typically lower in non-presidential years such as this year.
Q: HOW LONG DOES COUNTING USUALLY TAKE?
A: While Illinois historically has counted most of its ballots on election night, the boom in mail and early voting meant more than 13% of Illinois votes were counted after election day in 2020. This means winners may not be known in close races until the days after the election.
Q: WHAT HAPPENS AFTER TUESDAY?
A: Illinois does not have an automatic or mandatory recount law. Candidates may seek – and pay for – a recount if the losing candidate received 95% of the vote of the winner. Recount results are for discovery purposes – to be used in a potential legal action.
The Associated Press and the FOX 32 Digital Staff contributed to this report.