UPDATEDx3 with Ratings Changes and More Super PAC Spending

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and President Biden Visited Chicagoland, Vice President Harris hits Chicagoland Sunday for GOTV

Written by John Lopez

UPDATEDx3 with President Biden and House Republican Leader McCarthy come & gone; final super PAC spending and Cook Political Report w/ Amy Walter ratings changes, including IL-06 & IL-14 from “Likely Democrat” to “Leans Democrat,” upgraded in Republicans favor; and results with House majority super PAC independent expenditures for broadcast TV opposing the Republican nominees.  Also, Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball ratings change to “Leans Democrat” for IL-06 and entry of Congressional Leadership Fund super PAC in IL-06 with $1.8 million.

UPDATES in bold print.

The final campaign disclosure reports (before the Nov. 8 election) with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) have been filed by federal candidates in Illinois. The table includes the latest filing period (Oct 1 – 19) and the election cycle-to-date (CTD) from January 1, 2021 through October 19, 2022. In addition to the U.S. Senate race, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) has targeted six U.S. House races in Illinois, and those are also listed.  Finally, in addition to the money raised and spent by the candidates’ FEC committees, super PACs have also been active, and some will be highlighted in this article.

U.S. Senate

The contest between first-term U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D) and challenger Kathy Salvi (R) is rated safe Democrat by most of the major ratings services, though Real Clear Politics (RCP) had a rating change to “Likely Democrat.” 

Duckworth, a senator for 6 years and U.S. House member 4 years prior, has amassed a massive war chest. In October, the Democrat has spent over $2 million saturating TV airwaves across Illinois. Salvi’s campaign has relied on grassroots campaigning and is not on TV.

UPDATE:  Modest independent expenditure from Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) of $25K is for GOTV efforts.

6th Congressional District

Two-term Congressman Sean Casten (D-Downers Grove) and challenger Mayor Keith Pekau (R-Orland Park) are locked in a closer race than the major ratings services indicate:

  • Cook Political Report with Amy Walter: Leans Democrat
  • Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball: Leans Democrat
  • Elections Daily: Likely Democrat
  • RCP: Toss-up

While no published independent polling is available in this race, Mayor Pekau is broadcasting TV commercials on broadcast TV in Chicagoland. Congressman Casten has been on broadcast TV since Labor Day. Casten launched attack ads against Pekau in late September, possibly indicating Pekau and Casten are close according to internal polling.

Of the Chicagoland targeted races, Casten is the only incumbent with less than $1 million cash-on-hand, largely due to his incumbent-vs.-incumbent Democratic primary.

While Cook and Sabato are the more reliable ratings, the RCP and Pekau’s presence on TV could produce a ratings change between now and Election Day (ratings changes in Pekau’s favor on November 1 & 2).

With the ratings change by Cook Political coupled with House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA 23rd) Chicagoland visit on Friday to campaign with Pekau, the largest Democratic super PAC, House Majority PAC (HMP), launched an TV commercial ad buy on broadcast TV.

From Greg Giroux of Bloomberg Law

Thursday mid-morning, the Republican-backed Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF) added IL-06 as a target to flip from Democrat to Republican, including a $1.8 million independent expenditure for broadcast TV advertising opposing Casten. The new TV ads hit Chicagoland TV Thursday. Digital ad can be viewed here.

Late Thursday, the Democratic HMP filed its FEC disclosure of an independent expenditure opposing Pekau, with a broadcast TV & digital ad buy of nearly $604K.

Late Friday, the HMP spent an additional $199K to oppose Pekau bringing their final spend in IL-06 to $803K.

8th Congressional District

The NRCC is still targeting the race between three-term Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Schaumburg) and challenger Chris Dargis (R-Palatine). However, Dargis is the only Illinois Republican in an NRCC-targeted race who has not been elevated to the top level of the NRCC Young Guns program.

Krishnamoorthi is the only incumbent Democrat in Illinois with an 8-figure cash-on-hand and had no additional TV advertising purchases in October, though his positive ad has been on broadcast TV since Labor Day.

Dargis, like Senate candidate Salvi, is relying on grassroots support to make the race competitive.  All ratings services have IL-08 as Safe Democrat except RCP, who rates IL-08 Likely Democrat.

11th Congressional District

The race between seven-term Congressman Bill Foster (D-Naperville) and Catalina Lauf (R-Woodstock) has taken a very interesting turn since early October. Through redistricting, about 55% of the new IL-11 is new to Foster. Either he hasn’t represented this portion of the territory since his days as the IL-14 congressman from 2008 through 2010, or he has never represented this portion, which includes Lauf’s home base of McHenry County. (Foster lost his reelection bid for a 3rd term in IL-14 in 2010 but won election to the new IL-11 in 2012.)

Since the primary, though, Foster has spent nearly $3 million dollars in marketing, including three different TV commercials on broadcast TV which didn’t start airing until mid-September.

After her successful primary, Lauf had less than $26K in the bank and basically had to rebuild her campaign from scratch. She hired a new campaign manager, Derek Murphy, who was the former senior political advisor to Mayor Richard Irvin‘s unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign. By the August 23 fundraiser with Congressman Burgess Owens (R-UT-04), she had raised around $100K.

With the new campaign-fundraising team in place, Lauf’s fundraising has taken off and through October 19, had raised just under $1 million since the primary.

What really changed in Lauf’s favor was the Club for Growth Action super PAC independent expenditure of $471K for the production of two TV commercials: one attacking Foster and the other attacking Foster and introducing Lauf to TV viewers. The independent expenditure was launched in early October.

The Club for Growth kicked in another $530K last week, bringing their total independent expenditure spending to over $1 million.

The California Target Book on October 26 published an update of independent expenditure spending in IL-11, and it can be viewed here. Since last week’s update, an additional $100K of independent expenditures from other super PACs have been spent in IL-11, bringing total spending by super PACs to around $1.1 million.

With super PAC spending and Lauf’s fundraising, Lauf’s campaign has combined funds of $2 million.

Foster’s campaign responded last week with his own attack ad on broadcast TV against Lauf.  Foster is not receiving any significant super PAC funding for his reelection campaign. He entered the final 3 weeks of the campaign with over $3 million in the bank.

To date, no ratings changes have been published, with Cook, Sabato, and RCP rating IL-11 as Likely Democrat, and Elections Daily rating IL-11 as Safe Democrat.

If ratings changes come through in the final week of the election, IL-11 could be the sleeper race of election night.

UPDATE:  There have been no ratings changes for IL-11 through Thursday, and in spite of some hype from Chicagoland media and the Lauf campaign stating Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and President Biden are in Chicagoland to bolster Lauf and Foster, respectively, there is no evidence IL-11 is in play due to no publicly released polling data or ratings changes.

Apart from the Club for Growth super PAC independent expenditures last month, neither CLF nor HMP have paid for independent expenditures in this district through Thursday.

13th Congressional District

In the first of two downstate open seats, IL-13 pits a former staffer to President Biden and Governor J.B. Pritzker, Nikki Budzinski (D-Springfield), with businesswoman Regan Deering (R-Decatur).

Ratings for IL-13:

  • Cook:  Leans Democrat
  • Sabato:  Leans Democrat
  • Elections Daily:  Likely Democrat
  • RCP:  Toss-up

Budzinski has received over $2 million in outside super PAC independent expenditures. Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s House Majority PAC (HMP) gave $1 million through October 29; Democrat-aligned super PACs including EMILY’s List gave over $1 million. The super PAC activity is in addition to $3.6 million Budzinski has raised.

Budzinski is saturating the TV airwaves downstate.

Deering has largely self-funded her campaign with $1 million in loans to herself and has limited TV advertising.  Super PAC independent expenditures have been just under $52K, and no large Republican super PACs, including the Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF) or the NRCC super PAC, have helped Deering to date.

While Cook and Sabato keep the race competitive with a “Leans Democrat” rating, the turnout may determine if this will be a race to watch on election night.

Unless more super PAC spending takes place from NRCC, if this open seat ends up close but going to the Democrat, the NRCC will be wondering what-could-have-been.

UPDATE:  The HMP, as part of its nearly $46 million independent expenditures filing Thursday night, nearly $867K will oppose Republican Regan Deering. The IL-13 is one of a handful of Democratic super PACs offensive targets in the country to flip a Republican open seat to Democrat and explains the nearly $3 million spend by outside groups.

14th Congressional District 

Two-term Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (D-Naperville) is facing Kendall County Board Chairman Scott Gryder (R-Oswego) in a race where Underwood appears to be dominating, saturating the Chicagoland broadcast TV airwaves with two positive ads and not broadcasting attack ads against Gryder by name.

However, this race saw a ratings change last week by RCP, moving IL-14 to “Toss-up.”  The other ratings are as follows: 

  • Cook:  Leans Democrat
  • Sabato:  Leans Democrat
  • Elections Daily:  Likely Democrat

While Underwood’s two commercials have been on the air since early September, her October spending for the 1st 19 days of the month is over $1.2 million.

Gryder has a commercial on cable TV.

After the unexpected close race she faced in 2020, Underwood appears to be taking nothing for granted. But if another ratings change takes place in Gryder’s favor in the last week (and the change took place on November 1), a long night of vote-counting may take place election night (and the days after for vote-by-mail ballots).

With the ratings change by Cook Political, the largest Democratic super PAC, House Majority PAC, launched an TV commercial ad buy on broadcast TV.

From Greg Giroux of Bloomberg Law

UPDATE: Late Thursday, the Democratic HMP’s nearly $46 million independent expenditures filing included nearly $176K to oppose Republican Scott Gryder in the final weekend of the campaign with some for digital advertising, but the bulk for TV advertising (unknown if cable only or broadcast TV).

Late Friday, HMP additional spend of $584K brings total independent expenditures opposing Gryder to $760K.

17th Congressional District

The other downstate open seat is unquestionably “the big one” in Illinois, which clearly is one of the battleground seats needed for control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

This is “Top Tier” with two capital “T”s.

Here, 2020 nominee Esther Joy King (R-East Moline) is running again after her near-miss against Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-Moline), with Bustos deciding not to seek reelection in April of 2021. Former TV weatherman Eric Sorenson of Moline emerged from the crowded Democratic primary field to face King to hold the seat for the Democrats.

Through Saturday, combined spending is over $17 million, and there’s still over a week to go.  Every major super PAC for both Republicans and Democrats is involved in the IL-17.

Super PAC spending accounts for over $10 million of independent expenditures, with Republican-aligned super PACs spending slightly ahead by just over $100K.

The ratings for IL-17:

  • Cook: Toss-up
  • Sabato: Toss-up
  • Elections Daily: Toss-up
  • RCP: Leans Republican

Who has the edge? It’s anyone’s guess. The latest poll was released in late summer when the abortion issue was at the height of everyone’s minds. But it was a Democrat internal poll that showed Sorenson leading by 9 points.

Debate performances have neither helped King nor not hurt her. She has garnered the most newspaper editorial endorsements, including being the only Republican endorsed in Illinois’ congressional races by the Chicago Tribune (the paper chose not to endorse anyone in the Republican safe IL-12, IL15 and IL-16). King was also endorsed by Lee Enterprises, which publishes newspapers throughout the IL-17.

Come election night, this race is going to the wire and likely will be too close to call even after November 8.

UPDATE: Nearly $1.7 million of the final Democratic HMP’s nearly $46 million independent expenditures filed with the FEC Thursday night is for IL-17, with the bulk of the $1.7 million to oppose Republican Esther Joy King with negative broadcast TV ads in the multiple media markets of the district. This is a defensive move to hold the currently Democratic district.

The latest independent expenditures make IL-17 an $18 million race going into the final weekend.

California Target Book’s listing of the competitive House and Senate races nationwide based on outside spending through super PACs can be viewed here. While the full list of the most competitive races is an eye chart in many ways, the dollars documented is the real campaign and where money is being concentrated across the country for November 8.

John Lopez wrote about policy and elections through the McHenry County Blog from 2019 to 2021. He is now semi-retired and does freelance analytics work. 

Follow John on Twitter: @MarcVAvelar