Labor activist Nikki Budzinski in a strong position to win
By CARL GREEN
Springfield, IL – Illinois has approved its Congressional redistricting, resulting in a plan to have the state represented in the House of Representatives by 14 Democrats and three Republicans – if voters cooperate in the next election.
The plan places Labor activist Nikki Budzinski in a strong position to win a new seat that will represent most of the Metro-East area, and she has continued to pick up endorsements from leading Democrats, now including U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin.
The current split in Illinois is 13 Democrats and five Republicans, but the state is losing a seat because of population loss. The Democratic-led state legislature, in making the new map, wanted to offset expected Democratic losses in other states. So the map has big changes from the old one, shaking up southern Illinois’ current Congressional representation of three Republicans.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the final version on Nov. 23, saying it reflects Illinois’ diversity and maintains minority representation, as prescribed by the federal Voting Rights Act.
“These maps align with the landmark Voting Rights Act and will ensure all communities are equitably represented in our congressional delegation,” he said.
That doesn’t mean it doesn’t look funny. The state’s largest district geographically, the 14th, now includes most of what people think of as southern Illinois – from Cairo in the south, almost but not quite to the Metro-East in the west, and northward into Coles County near Indiana.
U.S. Rep. Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro) would be the expected representative for the district under this plan, but the district has a northeastern notch that takes in Oakland, home of Rep. Mary Miller, a radical Trump conservative who took office in 2020. So those two could wind up in a primary fight next June 28. Bost plans to run; Miller hasn’t said yea or nay. Either way, Bost will no longer represent most of the Metro-East.
Their district runs alongside another giant district, the 15th, which includes mostly rural areas extending from the fringes of the Metro-East to the north and west, almost but not quite to the union-strong Quad-Cities, home of Moline, Rock Island and the recent John Deere strike.
The 15th is seen as strongly Republican. That is in part because the new 13th District is like a long gouge cut out of the middle of it, containing several major cities of central and southern Illinois, including most of the Metro-East and taking in Springfield, Decatur and Champaign-Urbana on its way. It is considered a likely Democratic district but not a lock.
On the map, the 15th wraps around the 13th like a glove around a hand.
Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville) lives in the large, rural 15th district. The Oakland notch spares him from being in the same district as Miller. He announced last week that he would run for re-election in the new 15th District.
That district includes some parts of Alton and Collinsville and all of Troy, Highland and Hamel.
BUDZINSKI RISING IN NEW DISTRICT
The new 13th District is carved out of territory Davis has represented for four terms. The most prominent candidate at this point is veteran union and Democratic staffer Nikki Budzinski, who earlier announced she would run in a challenge to Davis but now has a district with him out of the way. She has moved to Springfield, where she lived previously.
While Budzinski has gained endorsements and support from party leaders and union leaders, she also has a Democratic primary opponent, David Palmer of Champaign, a retirement planning adviser.
Budzinski has said in interviews that she wants to help rebuild the middle class that her parents aspired to and the unions that helped create it.
“Because of unions, they had a middle-class life,” she said. “And I see that the middle class is truly slipping away from us. It’s becoming more of the super-rich on one side and those who are trying to make it and get by on the other. There should be more of a middle class, and I believe the Labor Movement is really that gateway, that pathway to creating a middle class again.”
Budzinski, 44, served in the Biden Administration as chief of staff of the Office of Management and Budget and was an adviser to Pritzker. She has been endorsed by Sangamon County Party Chair Bill Houlihan and Macoupin County Party Chair Pam Monetti, plus the entire delegation of Democratic state representatives and senators from the Metro East.
Said Houlihan: “She’s got relationships with staff from the legislature to the executive branch, she’s got relationships with Labor and she was president of college Democrats at the University of Illinois.”
Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Swansea) added, “She is a leader who can bring people together and deliver real results for working men and women.”
DURBIN: ‘THE KIND OF PERSON WE NEED’
Last week, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin endorsed Budzinski as well.
“I know her. I know her family. I know her values, even more importantly,” he said in his announcement. “And I know why she’s doing this. She made the move back to Illinois to make this race for Congress. It was that important to her.
“The issues she’s running on are the issues I care about and the reason I want to be in Washington D.C. at this moment – to make sure we can help families in this district deal with the cost-of-living, with the cost of prescription drugs, with health care that may be beyond the reach of some families – and to make sure we are dealing with issues and programs that help those families deal with everyday challenges.”
Budzinski supported the federal infrastructure bill as a way to bring jobs into the district, Durbin added.
“She is exactly the kind of person we need in Congress working on behalf of Illinois families,” he said.
BUSTOS BOWING OUT
If you’re keeping score, the Quad-Cities has been placed into a wide-ranging district, the 17th, that also contains Peoria, Rockford and Bloomington-Normal and is considered to lean somewhat Democrat, while an adjacent district, the 16th, runs along beside it but lacks those cities and is expected to be the third Republican district.
The incumbent in the 17th, Labor-friendly Rep. Sheri Bustos, (D-Moline), does not plan to run, so there is an opportunity for a Democratic candidate there in the land of John Deere.
Elsewhere, the greater Chicago region accounts for 12 districts, all considered Democrat-leaning to varying degrees.