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Esther Joy King to face Eric Sorenson for 17th Congressional District in Illinois

Rana Smith shows her son Evan, 11, the voting process Tuesday, June 28, 2022 at the mall in Sterling. “It’s very important to come out to vote,” Smith said about the life lesson.

Republican Esther Joy King and Democrat Eric Sorensen will face off in November in what will be a closely watched race for Illinois’ 17th Congressional District.

The Associated Press picked the winner of the GOP primary around 9:30 p.m., and the Democrats’ race around 10:15 p.m., with about two-thirds of the votes counted.

In a statement released on Twitter, King, an East Moline attorney, thanked her supporters and called it “the honor of my lifetime to run to represent the people of this district.

“We have a major fight ahead of us – a fight to ensure that people can fill their gas tanks and grocery carts without dipping into their rent money or retirement savings,” she wrote.

King defeated fellow East Moline resident and insurance broker Charles Helmick Jr.

Sorensen bested five other candidates to win the berth. He, too, thanked supporters.

“From the first day, this campaign has been built on three pillars: trust, science, and communication,” he added on his Facebook page. “Talking with voters across the district, they agree, we need more science and less politics in their next representative.”

Should he also win on Nov. 8, Sorensen, a longtime TV meteorologist before retiring to run for this office, would be the state’s first openly gay Congressional member.

It will be one of the most hotly contested races nationwide, as the GOP pushes to regain a majority in the U.S. House.

The winner will take the seat of outgoing Democratic U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos of East Moline, who announced in April 2021 that she would not seek reelection after her fifth term in office, prompting a small avalanche of nine hopefuls to step up. (One, Democrat Linda McNeely of Rockford, did not survive a challenge to the legitimacy of her petitions.)

Bustos issued this statement:

“Congratulations to Eric Sorensen on his victory tonight. Illinoisans deserve a representative who will fight for working families, help build our local economy and continue to lift up Midwestern voices. Eric will do that.

“This November will be a historic election. Simply put, our freedoms and democracy are on the line. While we were lucky to have a great crop of candidates vying for the Democratic nomination, now is the time to come together and work to help keep this seat blue in November.”

The GOP winner never appeared to be in question.

By 9:30 p.m., King had roundly outpaced Helmick, and by noon Wednesday, with 95% of the votes counted, the tally was 30,749 for King, 14,017 for Helmick, the AP reported. That’s 68.7% to 31.3%.

This will be her second run for the Congressional seat; she was the Republican nominee in 2020, coming in a close second to Bustos, with 48% to 52% of the vote. King announced her intention to run again only an hour after Bustos said she was bowing out. Helmick was a primary candidate that year, but withdrew.

With 95% of the Democratic votes counted, Sorensen garnered 14,450 votes, or 37.9%.

Former state representative Letisa Wallace of Rockford had 8,889 votes, or 23.1%; Rockford Alderman Jonathan Logemann had 5,530, or 14.5%; Rock Island County board member Angie Normoyle had 4,724 votes, ore 12.4%; community activist Marsha Williams of Channahon had 2,633, or 5.9%, and cannabis lobbyist Jacqueline McGowan of Palos Hills had 1,985 votes, or 5.2%, the AP reported.

In Whiteside County, where all 60 precincts were counted by 9:20 p.m. Tuesday, the unofficial numbers were 3,031 for King and 1,001 for Helmick in the GOP race, or 75.2% to 24.8%.

They were 1,247, or 57% for Sorensen, a clear local favorite, 377 for Logemann, or 17.2%; 206 for Normoyle, or 9.4%; 154 for Wallace, or 7.3%, and 104 each, or 4.7%, for Williams and McGowan, the clerk reported.

The newly redrawn 17th District, with a population of more than 700,000, encompasses all or parts of Carroll, Whiteside, Winnebago, Stephenson, Rock Island, Knox, Mercer, Henry, Peoria, Fulton, Tazewell, McDonough and McNeal counties, running from Galena in the north to Astoria in the south.

It is heavily rural, encompassing around 10,000 family farms, but also includes the cities of Rockford, Peoria, Moline and Rock Island.

Kathleen Schultz

Kathleen A. Schultz

Kathleen Schultz is a Sterling native with 40 years of reporting and editing experience in Arizona, California, Montana and Illinois.