Half of Illinois’ statehouse races are uncontested, politicians differ on why

Half of Illinois’ statehouse races are uncontested, politicians differ on why

ILLINOIS (IRN) — Two candidates for the Illinois General Assembly who don’t face an opponent in Tuesday’s election have different explanations for why there are so many uncontested statehouse races.

In the state Senate, races for 20 of the 39 seats are uncontested. In the House, races for 54 of the 118 seats are uncontested.

State Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, said not having a challenger is good for him, but bad for voters who should have choices. He said it’s that way because the Democrat majority drew the maps in a very partisan manner.

“The legislative districts in Illinois have been drawn in a very partisan manner to benefit Democrats,” Butler said. “When you look at a district like mine, what they did is they packed Republicans into a district and make it uncompetitive for the Democrats so they can find competitive districts around mine.”

State Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside, said he thinks he doesn’t have an opponent because he’s doing a good job.

“I don’t always accept the premise that maps prevent competition,” Zalewski said. “It’s more based on personal performance.”

He said he’d like to think his constituents appreciate the job he’s doing as to why he doesn’t have a challenger.

Butler said the way the maps were drawn by the Democratic majority is the reason there’s a number of uncompetitive districts. He said a voter-led initiative two years ago to change the state constitution to allow redistricting to be done independently of state lawmakers was dismissed by the courts, despite more than half-a-million petition signatures to have a ballot question to that effect.

That effort to throw the initiative off the ballot was led by an attorney with ties to the state’s most prominent Democrats, including House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago.

There are several efforts to change how the maps are drawn in Illinois, Butler said. He said he’s worried that if Democrats maintain control of the statehouse, it won’t be addressed.

Zalewski said redistricting is an issue among many that lawmakers could tackle in the new year.

“We have a lot of hard work ahead of us and these are all conversations we have ahead of us when the dust settles on Tuesday,” Zalewski said.

If they do address how the maps are drawn, legislators will have to do so before the next map is drawn after the 2020 census.