17th Congressional District race draws national attention, money

Illinois Elections
Illinois Elections(MGN)
Published: Oct. 3, 2022 at 6:36 PM CDT
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(25 News Now) - A local House of Representatives race is stirring up conversation and money in Washington.

It’s a newly redrawn district with no incumbent. Many analysts view Illinois 17th Congressional District as one of a select few toss-up seats countrywide. With Democrats currently holding a slim majority in the current House, the race between Republican Esther Joy King and Democrat Eric Sorenson could end up being a deciding factor.

“I’d say [there are] 30 toss-up seats in the entire country, and this is one of those,” Bradley University Associate Political Science Professor Megan Remmel said.

“We think of it in a district in rural Illinois, but to Washington, it doesn’t matter where it is,” Illinois State University Associate Political Science Professor Meghan Leonard said. “Because so few districts are competitive these days, it will draw a lot of attention... “Both parties see this seat as essential to their ambitions next year.”

The seat is currently held by Democratic Representative Cheri Bustos, who beat King by four percentage points in 2020. As Bustos retires, Republicans think they can flip the seat red, despite new redistricting favoring Democrats in the new map.

“[It’s] two countervailing forces. A district that should be ok for Democrats, versus a political year which is good for Republicans,” Southern Illinois University Public Policy institute Director John Shaw said.

Both campaigns have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, and Political Action Committees have flooded airwaves with ads, including on WEEK-TV stations. The race itself is focusing on centrist voter issues like the economy, inflation in the district that stretches from Rockford to Rock Island to Peoria.

“Playing to the center is a strong term,” Remmel said. “It’s more highlighting issues that won’t alienate people that will convince people that you are the correct person to vote for.”

The two candidates squared off in a debate Monday night at Bradley University, streamed live on Facebook.