The primary field is set. Sort of.
Monday at 5 p.m. marked the deadline for candidates with the two major political parties to turn in nomination petitions in order to appear on the March 16 primary ballot. While that by and large establishes what voters will encounter in 15 weeks – 400-plus candidates turned in papers in Springfield since Nov. 27 – the process isn’t entirely complete.
The first hurdle is objections to nominating petitions, which can be filed until Dec. 11. There’s a separate timeline for submitting and objecting to public questions for votes on referendums.
The State Board of Elections has two extra filing periods: from Dec. 18 through 26 for circuit, appellate or Supreme Court vacancies that opened from Nov. 13 through Dec. 4. Candidates for state and county offices who belong to other political parties, or will run as independents, don’t participate in the established party primaries, so they file from June 17 through 24.
Although candidates who lose partisan primaries are barred from running in the general by switching affiliations or mounting write-in campaigns, there’s always the potential for an incumbent to announce a change of plans and leave the ballot after mid-March, which lets party leaders name a replacement.
Still, Monday’s deadline brings clarity. As with any election cycle, voters in many districts are left wondering why candidates from only one of the majority parties seem interested in running.
Democrats currently control the state Senate 40-19 and the House 78-40. That means Republicans need to pick up 11 Senate and 21 House seats to have a majority in both chambers. Based on math alone it’s a much tougher path in the Senate: only 23 of 59 seats will be contested this cycle.
As of 10 p.m. Monday, four current Republican districts have no announced Democratic candidate. Of the 19 districts Democrats currently hold, only 11 have a GOP primary contender.
Of the 118 House seats, only 52 appear set for a contested election. Of those, Democrats hold 36 and Republicans have 16. That leaves 42 Democratic and 24 Republican districts without a clear November opponent. With 60 seats needed for a majority, Democrats are bidding for 94 and Republicans 76.
This will be the second election cycle under the current political maps. Redistricting delays helped push the 2022 primary from March to June, so it’s good to be back on schedule.
The State Board of Elections website has tools that list all your current electoral districts by number, if you’re registered (ova.elections.il.gov/RegistrationLookup.aspx), or by incumbent name, for any street address (tinyurl.com/4effx82m).
Ideally every race would have at least two strong candidates, but a lot of things would have to change for that dream to become reality.