Candidates for 2024 primary brave cold for potential ballot advantage
Monday marked the kickoff for the 2024 election cycle, with hundreds of candidates filing their petitions at the Illinois State Board of Elections.
Those in line by 8 a.m. Monday at the ISBE building in Springfield will be entered into a lottery to be the first name on the ballot in their respective primary elections, set for March 19. The lottery will be public and will take place on Dec. 13.
While some candidates camp out for hours to be first in line, Illinois State Board of Elections spokesman Matt Dietrich said he is skeptical that top billing offers an advantage, especially in primaries.
“It doesn’t seem logical to me that you would have very many of those types of voters who would go into their polling place with no clue of who’s on the ballot and would just go through and randomly pick the first one or pick the last one,” he said. “Maybe it happens, I don’t know, but it does seem to defy logic a bit.”
The deadline for major party candidates to file their petitions is 5 p.m. Monday, Dec. 4, with those entering in the final hour eligible for the last spot on the ballot.
Among those in line at 8 a.m. was House Minority Leader Tony McCombie, R-Savanna, who said she’d consider it a success if the superminority party picked up five seats this year. Democrats currently hold a 78-40 majority in that chamber, but McCombie said she was hopeful her party could make headway in the Chicago suburbs.
She also criticized Democrats for approving a district map that favors the majority party – a criticism oft-repeated by GOP candidates who lament that Democrats have drawn themselves into a decade of power until new maps are drawn after the 2030 U.S. Census.
“I would love to have more, of course,” she said. “But with the political environment of this map done by gerrymander, we're gonna see what we can do.”
Asked about McCombie’s goal of flipping five seats, Rep. Marcus Evans, D-Chicago, said that’s going to be up to voters.
“I think that people are going to be our litmus tests,” he said. “I think the Democrats have done a good job. Our track record is pretty clear.”
McCombie said Republicans’ top issues will be the economy, followed by “ethics and corruption,” although she acknowledged the latter issue has not necessarily helped the GOP “turn out voters.”
On the issue of abortion, McCombie said the GOP should “talk about it” – and her status as Republicans’ first-ever top female leader in the House puts her in the position to do so.
“I think, with a female leader, it might be a little bit different,” she said when asked about Democrats’ successfully campaigning on the abortion issue since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision last summer.
“I think the government certainly always has their hands in every issue. And I think we just have to approach it and be realistic about it and just talk about it,” she said, later adding, “We're not afraid to talk about our bodies.”
Other issues that are likely to play a major role in the election are the state and city of Chicago’s handling of an influx of migrants from southern U.S. border states, particularly Texas.
Evans, who is a majority leader for House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, commended Gov. JB Pritzker’s recent decision to dedicate another $160 million in state resources to help migrants find housing and to navigate the asylum process.
“This migrant issue is a worldwide, is a national issue,” Evans said. “I just got back from New York. And they've gotten a lot of folks from Venezuela who are looking for what we have in America – opportunity, you know – so we got to try to manage those folks.”
While McCombie said she expects lawmakers to consider a potentially unpopular supplemental spending plan to assist migrants, Evans was noncommittal on new funding going to the issue.
Evans, a strong union ally, noted that energy policy will be a priority for Democrats in the upcoming legislative session.
He specifically mentioned a measure giving existing utilities on the downstate energy grid the right of first refusal when it comes to building new transmission lines – a measure that unions supported but Pritzker vetoed earlier this year.
Its supporters have said they want to bring the issue back next year, and Evans said he’d support the effort.
Voters in the March 19 primary will choose nominees in races for president, the U.S. House of Representatives, Illinois General Assembly, judicial races, and multiple county contests.
As far as the presidential race goes, McCombie said she favored U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, at the top of the ticket and she was disappointed when he dropped out. She said she also liked the message of former Republican South Carolina Gov. Nikki Hailey, who also served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations under former President Donald Trump.
With Trump polling well in the lead of the GOP field, McCombie was asked if it would hurt the GOP in down-ballot races, given Illinoisans’ strong support of Democratic candidates in recent elections.
“I don't know if it hurts it, but it might challenge it,” she said.
Capitol News Illinois’ Andrew Campbell and Jennifer Fuller contributed.
Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of print and broadcast outlets statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.