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Q&A: Democratic Party chair Patrick Cortesi on their chances this fall

Patrick Cortesi on primary election night
Emily Bollinger
Patrick Cortesi on primary election night, in downtown Bloomington.

Following Tuesday's primary elections, WGLT sat down with Patrick Cortesi, the chair of the McLean County Democrats, to talk results.

The following interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

WGLT: Bloomington-Normal hasn't been represented by a Democrat in the statehouse since 1982. If Sharon Chung is able to get elected in the fall, does that change things here in any measurable way?

Cortesi: Well, I think, yes. We as McLean County Democrats are really looking forward to having that opportunity to send a state representative to Springfield. And we think Sharon Chung is an outstanding candidate to get that done. First, we're looking forward to having the opportunity to work hard for her and get her down there. It'll be nice to have somebody in Springfield who’ll be able to advocate for our values and our beliefs. It's been so frustrating for so many of us here in McLean County when we have issues, or we want to talk to our representatives in Springfield about these things. They've been nonexistent for the most part, especially Keith Sommer. So to have that opportunity to send somebody down there to Springfield to advocate for us is huge.

Do you anticipate a lot of outside interest and/or money in this race given that this newly drawn district encompasses an area that has been one of the few GOP strongholds in a state where Democrats have the supermajority?

Definitely. I think you're going to see a lot of outside interests from both sides. I think we already did in the primary, honestly. Obviously, Sharon was well supported by House Speaker Chris Welch and the Illinois Democratic House members. And Scott Preston was well supported by the GOP version of their PAC. So I think they both sides will realize how important of a district this is and how important it will be to either keep that seat if you're a Republican, or to win that seat if you're a Democrat. And I think we're going to see a lot of attention, a lot of money, a lot of work and effort into this district for that race.

Do you think that kind of thing is going to play out statewide? Some analysts think the GOP has a chance this year to gain some traction. Do you think we're going to see more competitive races this fall than we have in the past?

I do. I think that's definitely the case. And I think that's one of the reasons why there's going to be so much attention on the 91st is because I think the state Democrats see this as an opportunity to pick up a seat where there wasn't one, recognizing that we may lose one or two somewhere else around the state.

Turning to the gubernatorial primary, are you surprised that Darren Bailey is the Republican candidate?

No. He really had a surge and he started to get some outside help. It's a wing of the party that seems to be activated and enthusiastic right now. It feels like the right wing extremists have a little bit of momentum right now.

Speaking of outside help, Bailey did get some from Governor Pritzker. And some have described that as meddling in Republican politics. Do you think that we stand to lose anything as a democratic society if one party is trying to prop up the more extreme candidate from the other party deny voters access to a more moderate candidate?

I don't know that doing that denied voters access to a moderate candidate. I think these days voters have access to a lot more information than in the past. It's not my favorite technique in the world. But it was effective. And I get the strategy of why they did it.

How do you think that race is going to play out between Pritzker and Bailey?

Well, Illinois has defeated Trumpism twice already by double digits. And we're looking forward to doing it a third time.

Speaking of Trumpism, what are your thoughts on the Mary Miller/Rodney Davis race in the 15th Congressional District?

Oh, man. That, again, while not surprising, is disappointing to me. I'm never going to be happy or pleased when you see folks who were actively involved in the insurrection events of Jan. 6 be successful politically. And so the fact that Mary Miller and other folks around the state who either supported or were involved in Jan. 6 somehow got a majority of voters is almost mindboggling to me.

Do you see the tide eventually rolling back on this wave of extreme Trump-brand politics in Illinois?

I think at some point, it will run its course and we’ll revert back to the mean. We're just going to have to ride this out and do everything we can to encourage a more moderate brand of politics.

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Sarah Nardi is a WGLT reporter. She previously worked for the Chicago Reader covering Arts & Culture.
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