Illinois 2018 Primary Election Overview

April 4, 2018

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  • Democrat JB Pritzker easily bested his Democratic rivals, with 45 percent of the vote in the primary. His nearest rival, state Sen. Daniel Biss, was down almost 20 points, with 26.5 percent of the vote.
  • Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner won his primary by only four points against conservative state Rep. Jeanne Ives. This lack of enthusiasm in the primary could portend trouble for him in the fall in what is already a blue-leaning state. If these voters don’t show up for him in the general election, he almost certainly will be defeated. Pritzker’s vote total alone is almost equal to the combined number of votes in the entire Republican primary.
  • Pritzker and Rauner are expected to spend heavily in the general election in what has already been a record-breaking primary in terms of campaign spending. See gubernatorial race background for more detailed info.
  • Although there was much discussion that progressive challengers would threaten Democratic incumbents, Rep. Dan Lipinski was able to beat challenger Marie Newman, 51-49 percent. On the other hand, Aaron Ortiz successfully defeated longtime incumbent Dan Burke in his heavily Latino district (State House District 1).

Statewide – Governor

Democratic Primary

 2018 Illinois Democratic Primary Governor Race Results

Candidate Votes Percent
JB Pritzker – light blue 573,679 45.4%
Daniel Biss – dark blue 337,343 26.5%
Chris Kennedy – green 308,731 24.2%
Tio Hardiman 20,479 1.6%
Bob Daiber 14,814 1.2%
Robert Marshall 14,193 1.1%

10,064/10,119 precincts reporting


Republican Primary

 Illinois 2018 Republican Primary Governor Race Results

Candidate Votes Percent
Bruce Rauner* – dark red 361,301 51.5%
Jeanne Ives – light pink 341,836 48.5%

10,064/10,119 precincts reporting


Statewide – Attorney General

Democratic Primary

Candidate Votes Percent
Kwame Raoul 374,679 30.2%
Pat Quinn 340,203 27.4%
Sharon Fairley 156,078 12.6%
Nancy Rotering 115,980 9.3%
Scott Drury 98,249 7.9%
Jesse Ruiz 67,706 5.5%
Renato Mariotti 49,894 4.0%
Aaron Goldstein 37,988 3.1%


Republican Primary

Candidate Votes Percent
Erika Harold 378,720 59.2%
Gary Grasso 261,520 40.8%



U.S. House District 2:

  • Incumbent Democratic Rep. Robin Kelly easily won her primary against a challenger, with 82 percent of the vote.
  • Although there will be a Republican opponent, this is a safe Democratic seat.

U.S. House District 3:

  • In a closely watched primary, conservative Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski was able to hold onto his seat, with 50.9 percent of the vote and 97 percent of precincts reporting.
  • Progressive challenger Marie Newman was backed by several members of the Democratic Congressional delegation, including Jan Schakowsky and Luis Gutierrez, and liberal groups including Emily’s List and SEIU. Newman received 49.1 percent of the vote.
  • Although progressives had targeted Lipinski for his opposition to abortion and votes against the Affordable Care Act, he retained his seat due to strong support in Chicago.
  • This is a safe Democratic seat. The Republican opponent is a Holocaust denier.

U.S. House District 4:

  • This safe Democratic seat was open due to Luis Gutierrez’s retirement. Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, backed by Gutierrez, cruised to victory, with 66 percent of the vote against challengers.

U.S. House District 5:

  • Democratic Rep. Mike Quigley confidently won re-election, with 63 percent of the vote against challengers.
  • This is a safe Democratic seat.

U.S. House District 6:

  • In a seven-way primary, Democrat Sean Casten won, with 29.9 percent of the vote. Kelly Mazeski came in a close second with 26.5 percent.
  • Incumbent Republican Rep. Peter Roskam was unopposed.
  • This is a top-tier Democratic target for pickup in the fall.

U.S. House District 7:

  • Incumbent Democratic Rep. Danny Davis was re-elected, with 74 percent of the vote in the primary.
  • This is a safe Democratic seat.

U.S. House District 10:

  • Republican Douglas Bennett won the primary, with 36.5 percent of the vote.
  • He will take on Democratic incumbent Brad Schneider.

U.S. House District 11:

  • Republican Nick Stella won the primary, with 79 percent of the vote.
  • He will take on Democratic Rep. Bill Foster.

U.S. House District 12:

  • Democrat Brendan Kelly won, with 81 percent of the vote.
  • He will take on Republican Mike Bost in the fall.
  • This is a seat Democrats are hoping to flip.

U.S. House District 13:

  • Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan easily won her primary, with 46 percent of the vote in a five-way race. She had the support of Emily’s List and Sen. Dick Durbin.
  • Londrigan will challenge Republican Rep. Rodney Davis in the fall.
  • This is a top-tier race Democrats are hoping to win.

U.S. House District 14:

  • Democrat Lauren Underwood won her primary, with 57 percent of the vote.
  • She will face incumbent Republican Randy Hultgren.

U.S. House District 16:

  • Democrat Sara Dady won her primary, with 41 percent of the vote. She will face Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger in the fall.

Gubernatorial Race Background

American and Illinois flagsThe gubernatorial race dominated the news cycle of early 2018, with state Sen. Daniel Biss, billionaire J.B. Pritzker, and businessman and Kennedy heir Chris Kennedy vying for the Democratic nomination. Incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner and state Rep. Jeanne Ives, a fiscal and social conservative, fought for the Republican nomination. The race featured record-breaking campaign contributions. However, that spending didn’t directly translate into support from voters. Polls of Democratic primary voters show that, while Pritzker maintained a healthy lead throughout the race, about a third of voters were undecided with just a few days remaining. This is despite the unprecedented sum Pritzker spent in the primary. On the Republican side, Gov. Rauner had very low approval, which continued to fall despite his substantial financial resources. According to a poll released in early March by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, Rauner trailed behind Democratic gubernatorial candidates Pritzker and Biss by double digits, even though Biss raised only $6 million for his campaign.

The biggest theme from the gubernatorial primary has been the record-breaking campaign contributions, mainly from Pritzker and Rauner. By March, Pritzker spent nearly $70 million of his own money in the race, surpassing the $66 million that President Donald Trump spent on his entire 2016 campaign. Rauner contributed $50 million to his campaign as well. In early March, a Chicago Sun-Times analysis found that more than 25.9 percent of money contributed to Illinois political campaigns of the last two years came from Rauner, Pritzker, Rauner supporter Kenneth Griffin, and former Rauner supporter Richard Uihlein. With over $113 million spent on the primary election alone, the 2018 gubernatorial race is well on its way of becoming the most expensive gubernatorial election of all time.

Beyond spending, political scandals marred the gubernatorial primary across the spectrum. In early February, Pritzker experienced backlash for an old, secretly recorded conversation with former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Pritzker and Blagojevich discussed a list of African-Americans whom Blagojevich could appoint as a potential successor to Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate. The two weighed the pros and cons of each candidate, including calling Secretary of State Jesse White the “least offensive” choice. In the wake of the controversy, Emil Jones, a Kennedy supporter, called for Pritzker to leave the race, and a low-level Pritzker staffer resigned a few days later. The tape became an easy attack from Rauner and fellow Democratic candidates, with Pritzker apologizing on numerous occasions for his remarks. During a March 1 debate, Pritzker stated, “When I say I’m wrong, I’m wrong, and I was wrong on that call and I take responsibility for that.”

Earlier that week, Republican candidate Jeanne Ives sparked controversy for an ad broadcast on behalf of her campaign. The ad, which Ives continued to stand by, shows crude depictions of a Women’s March protestor, a unionized teacher, and an actor portrayed as a transgender woman, all thanking Rauner for “policy choices” he’s made. Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider immediately denounced the ad and called for its removal, while Rauner criticized it two days after the ad ran.

Rauner’s challenge from the right was largely motivated by a number of recent actions he took on legislation, including his signing of a bill expanding abortion access in September; his signing of the Trust Act in August, which enacted the strongest state-level due process protections against deporting immigrants; and his signing of an additional $450 million in Chicago Public School funding. Rauner’s decisions have alienated many of the Republican Party’s more conservative voters. In recent months, the governor has been criticized for his handling of reported Legionnaire’s disease, a rare type of pneumonia, at a veterans’ home in downstate Quincy. This outbreak has caused the death of 13 veterans.

Even after he visited the house in January to address the situation, four more cases emerged. However, in early March, Rauner announced that he would replace the Quincy residence halls on top of an original plan to remove antiquated plumbing.

High-Profile Illinois – General Assembly Primaries

I. Illinois House of Representatives

a. 82nd House District – Rep. Jim Durkin and Mickey Straub

District Candidate Votes % Precincts Reporting
82 Jim Durkin (I) 67.6 100%
Michael Straub 32.4

In the most expensive primary race, Burr Ridge Mayor Mickey Straub challenged House Minority Leader Jim Durkin. Straub was backed by conservative radio host Dan Proft, an Ives backer and former Rauner supporter disillusioned with Republicans who voted in favor of the July budget package that increased the state’s income tax. Although Durkin voted against these bills, 15 Republicans joined with Democrats in support, with 10 supporting an override of the governor’s veto.

Republican Candidates Funds Raised
Jim Durkin (I) $2,587,379.69
Ind. Expenditures Supporting $49,349.45
Ind. Expenditures Opposing $135,382.14
Mickey Straub $168,173.16
Ind. Expenditures Supporting $1,097,652.82
Ind. Expenditures Opposing $0.00

Total Funds in Race*: $4,042,307.18

*Fundraising totals in this section may include some candidates not listed above (e.g., a Democratic candidate in a safe Republican district).

b. 28th House District – Rep. Robert “Bob” Rita, Mary Carvlin and Kimberly Koschnitzky

District Candidate Votes % Precincts Reporting
28 Robert Rita 70 97.17%
Mary Carvlin 17.3
Kimberly Koschnitzky 12.7

Rep. Bob Rita has served for the past 16 years and is a member of a Blue Island family political dynasty. Rita faced controversy shortly before Election Day when accusations of a 2002 domestic violence incident emerged. Mary Carvlin, a Spanish teacher from Blue Island, accused the third candidate, Kimberly Koschnitzky, of being a “ghost candidate” who was put on the ballot to draw votes away from Carvlin.

Democratic Candidates Funds Raised
Robert “Bob” Rita $1,142,352.32
Ind. Expenditures Supporting $24,315.18
Ind. Expenditures Opposing $0.00
Mary Carvlin $2,950.00
Ind. Expenditures Supporting $0.00
Ind. Expenditures Opposing $0.00

Total Funds in Race*: $1,169,617.50

c. 5th House District – Lamont Robinson, Dilara Sayeed, Ken Dunkin and Felicia Bullock

District Candidate Votes % Precincts Reporting
5 Lamont Robinson Jr. 40.9 98.11%
Dilara Sayeed 27.3
Kenneth Dunkin 18.4
Felicia Bullock 13.5 

In 2016, Ken Dunkin and Juliana Stratton’s race in the 5th District was the most closely watched and most expensive race of the cycle. Given Stratton’s current run for lieutenant governor, Dunkin wished to regain the seat, although he had isolated Democratic voters due to his support of Rauner on key votes. Lamont Robinson, backed by Speaker Madigan and his allies, ran for the seat along with two other contenders.

Democratic Candidates Funds Raised
Lamont Robinson $665,777.08
Ind. Expenditures Supporting $21,371.58
Ind. Expenditures Opposing $0.00
Dilara Sayeed $188,720.00
Ind. Expenditures Supporting $0.00
Ind. Expenditures Opposing $0.00
Kenneth Dunkin $182,283.19
Ind. Expenditures Supporting $0.00
Ind. Expenditures Opposing $0.00
Felicia Bullock $1,070.00
Ind. Expenditures Supporting $0.00
Ind. Expenditures Opposing $0.00

Total Funds in Race*: $1,403,069.15

d. 1st House District – Rep. Daniel Burke and Aaron Ortiz

District Candidate Votes % Precincts Reporting
1 Aaron Ortiz 53.5 97.22%
Daniel J. Burke (I) 46.5

Brother to longtime Alderman Ed Burke, Rep. Daniel Burke, who has served since 1991, was challenged by 26-year-old progressive Aaron Ortiz. Congressional frontrunner Chuy Garcia had endorsed Ortiz. Burke’s district is the second-most Latino district in the House, with 68 percent of the population being Latino. Dan Burke’s loss would signal a more liberal and diverse Democratic Party and the diminished influence of historically powerful ward organizations in turning out votes.