Illinois set to be battleground for Congressional seats in November elections

CHICAGO - The stage is now set for Nov. 6, and big battles over congressional seats in Illinois. Democrats, labor and progressives are hoping to win back several Republican held seats. There are at least five battleground races that could help restore a Democratic majority.

The targeted congressional races will take place mainly in the western and northwest suburban Chicago areas that were swept by Republicans in 2010. After the recent census, new congressional districts were established favoring Democratic candidates.

The races present stark choices for voters. All the races pit moderate to progressive Democrats against right wing Republicans and are national targets for the Democratic Party "red to blue" strategy.

Disabled Iraq war vet and former assistant secretary of Veteran Affairs Tammy Duckworth defeated Raja Krishnamoorthi by 66 percent to 33 percent. Duckworth will now face freshman Rep. Joe Walsh in the new 8th congressional district. Walsh is a tea party extremist.

"Tea party members like Joe Walsh ... are breaking a promise to the American people," Duckworth said. "They want to pull the rug out from under seniors so they can protect tax cuts for wealthy Americans."

Former U.S. Rep. Bill Foster will face current Rep. Judy Biggert in the 11th district. Foster, a moderate Democrat, was defeated in the 2010 sweep in another district.

It appears that in the downstate 13th congressional district, Dr. David Gill, a single-payer advocate, will face entrenched Republican incumbent Rep. Tim Johnson, although final tallies are not in. The new district will stretch across the state from the university-dominated area around Urbana, to urban areas like Bloomington, Springfield and East St. Louis.

In addition, moderate Democrat and businessman Brad Schneider will oppose Rep. Robert Dold in the new 10th district; Democrat Brad Harriman will oppose wealthy businessman Jason Plumber in the 11th and Cheri Bustos is challenging Republican Rep. Bobby Shilling in the 17th district.

Among the most intensely watched state contests on March 20 was the one for the newly redrawn predominantly Latino 21st district state house seat pitting Rudy Lozano, Jr. against Silvana Tabares.

The election became a battleground between labor, progressive and independent forces on the one hand and entrenched Democratic machine elements, anti-union and privatization forces and Wall Street billionaires on the other.

Tabares narrowly defeated Lozano, an educator, youth mentor and community organizer had the backing of labor, pro-choice, progressive community activists and many elected officials including independent minded Cook County Commission Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Commissioner Jesus Garcia.  

Both overall low voter turnout and insufficient ties hampered Lozano and support in unfamiliar, Democratic machine dominated areas of the new district.

Lozano and the independent forces around him had struck fear in the machine when he nearly defeated Rep. Dan Burke, part of a powerful political family in 2010. A new district map was drawn to maintain Democratic machine domination by separating Lozano from his base in the predominately Latino Little Village and adding unfamiliar turf in the largely working class suburbs.

Tabares, a former editor of the bi-lingual newspaper Extra, had no previous political experience but did have the support of the Democratic machine led by House Speaker Mike Madigan and Burke's brother, Alderman Ed Burke and the mayors of suburban communities dominated by right wing and in many instances outright racist and corrupt element.

The charter school UNO, recipient of millions in state money that support their charter school empire also backed her. UNO is now the main new patronage organization in the Latino community controlled by machine elements. Many UNO contractors also contributed to the campaign.

The election then became a battleground for school privatization. While Lozano received the support of the Chicago Teachers Union, Tabares received $40,000 from Stand For Children (SFC), the Oregon based charter school foundation. SFC has been attempting to elect pro-charter state legislators around the country.

The Tabares campaign employed old school machine tactics including literature that falsely and crudely painted Lozano as a gangbanger. This racist attack was directed at suburban white working class and senior voters, playing on fears Latino gangs were moving to the suburbs from Chicago and driving a wedge between white and Latino communities.  

In contrast, Lozano ran on building unity between Latino, African American and white residents.

While Tabares received no trade union backing, she deliberately put out literature, which fraudulently showed total union support.

In some areas the Tabares campaign used thuggery to intimidate voters including in their door-to-door canvassing where they found Lozano supporters. The Lozano campaign constantly had to defend its signage.

Tabares never denounced or distanced herself from these tactics.

Heartened by the support he received, Lozano told the election night crowd the fight had only begun for transparent and honest government, progressive politics, workers rights and political independence.

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