Every House incumbent survived the first two weeks of congressional primaries, even amid the chaos roiling the presidential election. On Tuesday, the next batch will be held in Illinois and Ohio. With the exception of one suburban Chicago district, these races—in solidly Republican or Democratic districts—will all but determine who is headed to Congress. These are the races to watch.
Illinois’s 1st District: Rep. Bobby Rush (D)
Rush is fending off a primary challenge from Chicago Alderman Howard Brookins, his onetime ally. Brookins repeatedly slammed Rush’s attendance record in the House and is calling for fresh representation in the district. Notably, he earned the backing of state House Speaker Michael Madigan, who usually supports the party’s incumbents. Neither candidate raised a sizable sum, but Rush consistently beats back primary challenges, including his 2000 race against then-state Sen. Barack Obama. Rush faced a potential roadblock in December, when Brookins filed to remove him from the ballot based on nominating petitions. But after surviving that challenge, Rush is favored to win his primary and a 13th term.
Illinois’s 8th District: Open (D)
Rep. Tammy Duckworth’s Senate run opens up a solidly Democratic seat that drew three primary hopefuls: former state Deputy Treasurer Raja Krishnamoorthi, state Sen. Michael Noland and Villa Park Village President Deborah Bullwinkel. Most Democrats see Krishnamoorthi as the heavy favorite: He walloped his opponents in fundraising and scored endorsements from Democratic lawmakers such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer. Noland, the next-most viable candidate, received most of his support from labor groups.
Illinois’s 10th District: Rep. Robert Dold (R)
In the suburban Chicago race to face Dold, a top Democratic target, most Democrats give former Rep. Brad Schneider the edge in the primary against Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering. The two bill themselves as progressives but struck a major policy difference last year on the Iran deal, which Rotering backs and Schneider opposes. Schneider was supported by much of the Democratic establishment, including Pelosi and the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, but Rotering nabbed a notable endorsement from Sen. Dick Durbin. From Jan. 1 to Feb. 24, they spent more than $1.5 million combined.
Illinois’s 15th District: Rep. John Shimkus (R)
State Sen. Kyle McCarter is giving Shimkus his first serious challenge since 2002. McCarter accused Shimkus of not being conservative enough, frequently pointing out that the incumbent, who was elected in 1996, violated his own pledge to serve no more than six terms. Shimkus said his constituents forgave him, and he touted endorsements from Gov. Bruce Rauner, the National Rifle Association, and the National Right to Life Committee. Shimkus heavily outspent McCarter, $793,000 to $191,000, in the first eight weeks of the year, but McCarter got some outside help: Club For Growth’s super PAC ran a TV ad bashing Shimkus as “one of the most liberal Republicans in Congress.” Last week, the American Action Network swung back, doling out $200,000 to air a positive spot for Shimkus.
Ohio’s 8th District: Special election (R)
The race to replace former Speaker John Boehner evolved into a high-profile proxy battle between establishment and tea-party Republicans. Out of the dozen-plus Republicans running, three front-runners emerged: state Rep. Tim Derickson and state Sen. Bill Beagle, the establishment-aligned candidates, and businessman Warren Davidson, who is backed by the Club for Growth. Outside spending topped $2 million, with the Club responsible for more than $1 million of that. GOP establishment groups struck back, including the Defending Main Street super PAC, which attacked Davidson in radio and TV ads. Republicans in the district will vote for candidates twice: in the primary for the special election to serve the remainder of Boehner’s term, and the primary in the race for a full term. It’s likely that the same candidate will win both.
Ohio’s 14th District: Rep. David Joyce (R)
Tea-party favorite and 2014 challenger Matt Lynch is making a repeat attempt to unseat Joyce, who defeated Lynch by 10 points last cycle. Joyce took the challenge seriously: From Jan. 1 to Feb. 24, he outspent Lynch $466,000 to $38,000. He was endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Main Street Advocacy, which both ran positive ads on his behalf. Outside groups did not do the same for Lynch, who had less than $14,000 in the bank as of Feb. 24. Mitt Romney only narrowly carried the district in 2012, but Democrats don’t have strong candidates running; the winner of the GOP primary is all but certain to be elected in November.