National Republicans Set the Ranking of Congressional Races in Illinois

Written by John Lopez

On July 18, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) announced through National Journal‘s Erin Covey it had elevated 10 of the Republican nominees across the country to the highest level of the NRCC’s Young Guns candidate recruitment program.

Congressional Map 2022

In addition to IL-17 nominee Esther Joy King (R, East Moine), the two IL U.S. House nominees elevated by the NRCC are IL-06 nominee Keith Pekau (R, Orland Park) and IL-13 nominee Regan Deering (R, Decatur).

So what does this announcement mean for IL-11 Republican challenger Catalina Lauf (R, Woodstock), as well as IL-14 challenger Kendall County Board Chairman Scott Gryder (R, Oswego) and IL-08 nominee U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander (ret.) Chris Dargis (R, Palatine)?

Plenty, and as IL-11 Geneva-based political consultant/blogger Jeffrey N. Ward pointed out in his June 30 The First Ward article concerning Lauf:

“Catalina Lauf’s…despite raising far more cash than her bizarrely bad five Republican opponents, she still managed to capture just 31 percent of the vote…

“Though I’m no fan of Bill Foster, he will destroy her like the insignificant political…she really is.”

While likely not using Ward’s exact same words, the NRCC would be in agreement with Ward concerning Lauf, and both Dargis and Gryder, too.

The six Illinois congressional districts targeted by the NRCC and their Democratic incumbents (if any) are:

  • IL-06 and two-term Congressman Sean Casten (D, Downers Grove) challenged by Mayor Keith Pekau (R, Orland Park)
  • IL-08 and three-term Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (D, Schaumburg) challenged by Chris Dargis (R, Palatine)
  • IL-11 and 7-term Congressman Bill Foster (D, Naperville) challenged by Catalina Lauf (R, Woodstock)
  • IL-13 open seat where Nikki Budzinski (D, Springfield) and Regan Deering (R, Decatur) competing
  • IL-14 and two-term Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (D, Naperville) challenged by Kendall County Board Chairman Scott Gryder (R, Oswego)
  • IL-17 open seat where Esther Joy King (R, East Moline) and Eric Sorensen (D, Moline) competing

Chicagoland Congressional Districts 2022

While the NRCC has designated six targeted congressional districts in Illinois, just as in life, some NRCC targets are more equal than others, and the clear ranked order of priority in light of the NRCC announcement on July 18 is, with the district’s current rating according to Cook Political Report with Amy Walter:

  • IL-17 — Millions of dollars in TV ad reservations by both the NRCC and Congressional Leadership Fund super PAC confirms the election of Esther Joy King is the top Illinois U.S. House priority, with money to back it up, rating “Toss Up”
  • NRCC Young Guns designations: IL-06 and IL-13, will see some spending by NRCC, but to date, no TV ad reservations have been made in the Chicago suburbs or the downstate Springfield or St. Louis media markets, ratings for both districts, “Leans Democrat”
  • NRCC “On the Radar” candidacies of IL-08, IL-11 and IL-14 Republican nominees, who will likely see no help from NRCC or outside spending from super PACs, ratings for IL-11 and IL-14, “Likely Democrat” and IL-08 “Strong/Safe Democrat”

The NRCC Young Guns program has different designations/levels for Republican candidates, attempting to flip competitive Democrat-held seats, or attempting to win competitive open seats.

The two levels are “Young Gun” and “On the Radar” (the “Contender” middle level used in 2020 was discontinued for 2022).

According to the NRCC:

“The Young Guns program is divided into multiple levels containing benchmarks that a candidate must achieve to advance in the program. Candidates who achieve full Young Guns status have successfully collaborated with the NRCC and completed the requirements that establish a path to victory on Election Day.”

So with the July 18 announcements, along with King, who was elevated to full Young Guns status among the first wave of Young Guns announcements for 2022, Pekau (IL-06) and Deering (IL-13) have satisfied the benchmarks four weeks after winning their respective competitive primaries.

For whatever reason, Dargis (IL-08), Lauf (IL-11) and Gryder (IL-14) have not, and while some observers point out Gryder’s endorsement of Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin in the gubernatorial primary is enough to do Gryder in among Republican voters in the fall, it’s more likely the fundraising of the Democratic incumbents being a bigger reason Dargis, Lauf and Gryder remain at “On the Radar” level, with cash-on-hand balances compared with the Republican nominees based on FEC reports released July 15:

  • IL-08 Raja Krishnamoorthi $12.7 million, Chris Dargis $10,099
  • IL-11 Bill Foster $4.9 million, Catalina Lauf $25,924
  • IL-14 Lauren Underwood $2.8 million, Scott Gryder $12,437

In the case of Lauf, and what drove IL-11 resident Ward to point out her 31% plurality of the vote on June 28, the spend figure of $1.43 million is not a misprint, and represents the spend Lauf’s campaign has done since kicking off her 2022 congressional bid to challenge Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R, Channahon) and when redistricting forced Kinzinger to retire, Lauf jumped into the IL-11 race in early December of last year.

The only possible “ace-in-the-hole” Lauf has to help her in her fall race against Foster is the endorsement she picked up in late June from the Club for Growth PAC, provided the sister Club for Growth Action super PAC, will fund media buys for Lauf through independent expenditures.

Lauf is the only Republican nominee in Illinois’ congressional races endorsed by the Club for Growth, and where other super PACs and the NRCC may fund some Republican nominees, the Club for Growth in the past has supplemented funding for nominees when the NRCC and/or the Congressional Leadership Fund super PAC are focusing on other races.

Whether the outside spending through super PACs comes Lauf’s, or any Republican candidates’ ways remains to be seen.

But the Democrats are not sitting idle, as Sunday, July 24, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (R, CA-12) was in Chicago, promoting four of the Republican nominees at a fundraiser, per this picture from the NRCC:

From left Chris Sorensen (D, IL-17), Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (D, IL-14), Nikki Budzkinski (D, IL-13), Congressman Bill Foster (D, IL-11) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D, CA-12)

The Democrats fundraising prowess has gotten notice, particularly from the Cook Political Report with Amy Walter, where Senior U.S. House Editor Dave Wasserman downgraded the forecast of expected Republican gains in the fall in the U.S. House from 20-35, to 15-30, noting the following in a Friday morning tweet on July 22:

“Is the ‘red wave’ ebbing? Probably not much. But as Democrats show more signs of life and Republicans nominate several problematic candidates, we’re downgrading our Cook Political House outlook from a GOP gain of 20-35 seats to 15-30 seats.

“We haven’t hesitated to move vulnerable House Dems into Cook Political‘s Toss Up column.

“Still, if the 34 seats in Toss Up were to split evenly between the parties, Republicans would net just 18 seats – at the lower end of our 15-30 seat range.”

While a net-gain of 4 seats by Republicans flips the U.S. House for the next Congress, and uch of the “problematic candidates” is on the U.S. Senate side, the downgrade of 5 seats combined with successful Democratic fundraising makes the targeted races in Illinois the more interesting to watch, and where possible, for Illinoisans to participate through grassroots campaigning or fundraising.

John Lopez has written about policy and elections through the McHenry County Blog since 2019.  He is now semi-retired, and does freelance work with analytics, as well as political candidates, emphasizing policy as the means to advance the conservative message, by engaging through policy “dog fighting”, applying discernment for winning and advancing God’s Kingdom agenda.

John’s known for getting past the talking points, the narratives, the abstracts, the platitudes and the bromides in order to discuss policy and apply Scripture to overcome unholy divisions in the local community, our state, and nation.  John has been married for over 17 years.

Follow John on Twitter: @MarcVAvelar