CHICAGO (FOX 32 / AP) - Presidential hopefuls were wearing a path through Illinois on Monday, as the typically predictable state suddenly has become ground for some possible political upsets in key primary races.
Democratic former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders both are working to appeal to minority voters and union members in the labor-friendly state, as Clinton hopes to win the state where she was born. Sanders was hoping for a surprise on Tuesday like last week when he defeated Clinton in Michigan.
On the Republican side, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz had a full day of stops planned across Illinois as he tries to best billionaire Donald Trump, who canceled a rally in Chicago on Friday citing security concerns after thousands of people showed up to protest.
More than 1,000 delegates in both parties are at stake Tuesday when Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio vote.
The highest-stakes contests are in Florida and Ohio, where the winner-take-all Republican primaries award 99 and 66 delegates respectively and are must-wins for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
Illinois offers an opportunity for several candidates to pick up delegates and to show they can win in one of the country's largest populated states.
Republicans award 69 delegates, with the winner of a statewide presidential preference poll guaranteed at least 15. Voters choose the remainder by electing delegates in each congressional district who are affiliated with a candidate.
Democrats award 182 delegates, with 102 of those awarded based on the proportion of the vote a candidate receives Tuesday in each congressional district, provided they get a minimum of 15 percent. Many of the remaining delegates are pledged to a candidate independently of Tuesday's results, and those delegates - which include party leaders and elected officials - heavily favor Clinton.
But aides to Clinton's campaign said the race has gotten closer in recent days in Illinois, Ohio and Missouri.
Making a morning stop in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood, home to many Mexican-American immigrants, Clinton urged a group of Latino activists to head to the polls. Latino voters are a key demographic for Clinton in the primary and a potential general election, where her campaign hopes Trump's anti-immigrant comments could drive turnout among her supporters.
"We especially need you now," Clinton said before heading to an event at a Chicago union hall. "We have to have a big vote tomorrow that can send a strong message that loves trumps hate."
At a memorial to hundreds of children killed by gun violence in Chicago, Clinton implied that as President she could help stem the bloodshed.
"We have to do many things. But the first and most important in any nation is to protect and keep safe our children," Clinton said.
She's repeatedly noted that rival Sanders' voting record is much friendlier to the gun industry and the NRA than is hers.
Sanders drew emotional cheers when he said recent voter opinion surveys refute Mrs. Clinton's claim that Sanders is simply not electable.
"In virtually every single poll, we beat Trump by a larger margin than does Secretary Clinton," Sanders said.
Sanders, who is ending his day Monday with a late evening rally at Roosevelt University in Chicago, has been trying to peel off Clinton's support among African-American voters. He appeared Saturday with civil rights activist the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
Sanders also has used speeches and TV ads to link Clinton to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who has seen his support among black voters slip since closing schools in primarily minority neighborhoods and since the city released video of a white police officer shooting a black teen 16 times. Emanuel has endorsed Clinton.
"Based on his disastrous record as mayor of the City of Chicago, I do not want Mayor Emanuel's endorsement if I win the nomination," Sanders said Saturday.
Cruz, who's running second in the delegate count behind Trump, announced on Sunday that he would be making stops Monday in Rockford, Glen Ellyn, Peoria, Decatur and Springfield. He argues he's best positioned to stop Trump from getting the 1,237 delegates needed for the nomination.
At his Rockford event, Cruz told journalists that Trump can't be trusted because he donated to Democrats, such as former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich - who's now in prison for corruption - and Emanuel.
Cruz said that if voters are interested in "abuse of power from Chicago Democrats, then Donald Trump is a great candidate."
Among the several hundred who turned out to see Cruz was the woman in a Chicago Tribune photo taken outside Trump's cancelled rally last Friday giving a Nazi salute. It's now been seen all over the world. But Birgitt Peterson and her husband told FOX 32 that her gesture has been misunderstood. A native of Berlin, she was flabbergasted when protestors who apparently know little or nothing about Adolf Hitler's monstrous crimes compared Trump to him. The Petersons said they tried to explain that to the demonstrators.
"These young ladies were calling her a Nazi. And she said, 'If you want to know about it and you want to do the salute, here's the right way to do it.' And she did the salute," Peterson's husband said.
FOX 32: You're from Germany? You know the horrible history.
"Yes, I'm from Berlin," Peterson said.
Trump held a rally Sunday in Bloomington, and Kasich campaigned in the Chicago suburbs last week.
Illinois voters on Tuesday also will choose nominees to face off for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk and a series of congressional and legislative primaries, among others.
Here's a guide to Tuesday's action:
Turnout in Cook County - Illinois' largest county - already is double what it was in 2008, the last time both parties had contested primaries. That year, 51,116 voters cast ballots early, and that number is already dwarfed by the 119,267 who have voted as of Monday.
In Chicago, early voter turnout also eclipsed figures from 2008. So far 150,000 people have voted, compared to 81,690 in 2008.
Statewide, 477,486 people have voted so far.
Illinois has about 7.5 million registered voters who are considered active, meaning they cast ballots in recent elections. Statewide, turnout for primaries has been low, averaging 22 percent over the last four elections, according to the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, a government watchdog group that crunched the data.
This year marks the first year people can register to vote in Illinois up until the polls close.
Republicans are pursuing 69 delegates in Illinois. The statewide pick for president gets 15 delegates and voters allot the remaining 54 by electing delegates in each congressional district who are aligned with a candidate. On the Democratic side, there are 182 delegates at stake.
The Republican favorites to win Illinois, Trump and Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, both have courted voters here in recent days. Before appearing in Bloomington Sunday, Trump on Friday canceled a rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago Pavilion when protesters massed inside the venue, leading afterward to tense standoffs with his supporters.
Cruz, who trails only Trump in delegates for the GOP nomination, was making five Illinois appearances on Monday, including Springfield, Decatur, and Rockford.
Sanders had an event in downtown Chicago Monday night, and Clinton, who was born in suburban Chicago, was in Springfield Monday morning.
Both parties are picking a candidate for a U.S. Senate race this fall.
Republican incumbent Sen. Mark Kirk has a primary challenge within his party as he faces businessman James Marter, who is considered a long-shot.
Democrats, meanwhile, have three candidates vying to face whoever the Republican Senate candidate ends up being.
U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth is seen as the front-runner in the Democrats' primary. She's facing former Chicago Urban League CEO Andrea Zopp and state Sen. Napoleon Harris.
U.S. Rep. John Shimkus and state Sen. Kyle McCarter, both Republicans, are vying for the 15th District, while Democrats are battling it out in the 10th District with Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering and former U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider.
CHICAGO'S TOP PROSECUTOR
The shooting death of black teenager Laquan McDonald at the hands of a white Chicago police officer has been a dominant theme in the race. Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez faced primary challenges from Kim Foxx, a former aid to the county board president, and former prosecutor Donna More.
Alvarez has faced angry public demonstrations and calls for her resignation after she took a year to charge officer Jason Van Dyke in McDonald's death, which was captured on a police dashcam.
The uproar over how the shooting was handled led to Alvarez losing key political supporters, including a majority of the city council's Latino members and U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez.
CONTENTIOUS LEGISLATIVE RACES
A staggering amount of money is being spent in two of the state's 30 partisan legislative primaries because they're seen as extensions of the prolonged budget standoff between Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, with the power of unions a big sticking point in their fight.
Even President Barack Obama has weighed in on one of the races, endorsing the union-backed Juliana Stratton over incumbent Democratic Rep. Ken Dunkin in Chicago's 5th District.
Dunkin drew the wrath of his colleagues - and Rauner's backing - because he voted against pro-labor legislation.
Including money spent by independent groups, the combined price tag for the race is now at nearly $5.5 million.
In the 50th Senate District, incumbent Republican Sen. Sam McCann is battling Rauner and his own party for voting in favor of a pro-union measure. His primary against Bryce Benton has already reached $4 million spent.