CHICAGO - A battleground race between newbies aiming to fill retiring U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos' seat in Illinois’ 17th district tipped in Democrat Eric Sorensen's favor, representing a key win for the party as it tries to maintain control of Congress.
Sorenson, a meteorologist from Rockford, defeated Republican Esther Joy King, a lawyer who serves in the Army Reserve, in Tuesday’s election. The northwestern Illinois district stretches from Rockford in the north to Peoria and Bloomington in central Illinois. The Associated Press called the close race on Thursday.
The state lost one of its 18 House seats after the 2020 census, and Democrats, who control state government and redistricting in Illinois, received pushback for the new maps from Republicans and beyond. The redistricting proved successful for Democrats, who improved to a 14-3 dominance from 13-5 previously in the state delegation to Washington. The state's two U.S. senators are also Democrats, Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, who won reelection easily Tuesday.
Sorensen, whose campaign tagline was "Forecasting a Bright Future for Illinois," said he will focus on addressing inflation and shoring up reproductive rights during his first Congress term.
He will be the first LGBTQ person to represent Illinois in Congress, according to the LGBTQ Victory Fund, an organization that works to increase the number of out LGBTQ elected officials.
"This place is special and it’s going to be represented by someone who’s spent nearly their entire life living, working, and actively engaging in our community here, and will make sure that our community has a seat at the table," he said via campaign statement.
Sorensen has called 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.
King, who came within a few percentage points of ousting Bustos in 2020, describes herself as "unapologetically pro-life."
In a concession statement Wednesday, she wished Sorensen luck in the role, adding: "I hope he will put the needs of this district over his personal ideology in Congress because the people deserve it." ___
Savage is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.