News·5 min read

5 Key Midterm Races That Will Impact Illinois’s Future

Illinois state with I voted images over it
Design: theSkimm | Photo: iStock
September 23, 2022

Ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, we're breaking down some of the key races in states facing tight races. 

In Illinois, Democrats have managed to keep a tight hold on the state's seats. And they plan to keep it that way. Here's how.

The state of Illinois

Voters there have favored Democrats in every presidential election since 1992. And they've maintained that stance across nearly every elected seat in the state. Both Illinois Senators are Dems. Along with the offices of the governor, secretary of state, and both chambers of the state legislature. And come November, Dems are looking to expand on their majority. How? Because of newly redistricted congressional maps. Which the New York Times called "the most gerrymandered in the country."

Races to watch

Here are the five races to keep an eye on at the state and federal levels in Illinois. PS: Here’s what each elected position actually does. 


  • Gubernatorial Race

    • The candidates: Incumbent J.B. Pritzker (D) vs. Sen. Darren Bailey (R)

    • Stakes: Pritzker will very likely be reelected as governor, so the stakes for this race are relatively low. Even though the spending to keep this seat blue has been relatively high.

    • What to know: According to the Washington Post, Democrats spent $34.5 million in ads to elevate Bailey’s campaign during the primaries because they saw him as an easier opponent to beat over the other Republican candidates. Despite the odds, Bailey wants to focus on the economy, education, taxes, and agriculture. He is anti-abortion and pro-Second Amendment. Plus, he’s been criticized for calling Chicago a “hellhole.” Pritzker, on the other hand, supports access to abortion. He wants to focus on infrastructure, healthcare, the economy, education, and crime.

  • Attorney General Race

    • The candidates: Incumbent Kwame Raoul (D) vs. Thomas DeVore (R)

    • Stakes: A state’s AG is in charge of enforcing laws like abortion bans, mask mandates, and gun laws. Making this a highly contested seat. 

    • What to know: DeVore, who is an attorney in Southern Illinois, has made several vague campaign promises, saying he wants to “insist on equality under the law,” “end corruption,” and “restore law and order.” He’s also filed several lawsuits against Gov. Prizker over COVID-19 recommendations — which could show how he’d act if elected as AG. Meanwhile Raoul, who has held the seat since 2019, says he is working to protect access to reproductive healthcare, voting rights, and affordable healthcare, plus he wants to expand gun control. 

  • Secretary of State Race

    • The candidates: Alexi Giannoulias (D) vs. Dan Brady (R)

    • Stakes: Although many secretaries of state in other states oversee elections, in Illinois they do not. Here, they are in charge of maintaining official state records. But the New York Times said that many elected to this role have used it as a “stepping stone” to become governor. This is the first time the seat has been vacant since 1998. 

    • What to know: Giannoulias wants to protect voting rights, give ex-convicts state ID cards before their release, and wants to modernize the office (think: digital driver’s licenses and a secretary of state app). Brady wants to increase organ and tissue donor registration, streamline secretary of state services to bring the office into the “digital era,” and enhance social services for older adults. Both want to improve libraries and make driving safer in the state. 


  • 13th Congressional District Race

    • The candidates: Nikki Budzinski (D) vs. Regan Deering (R) 

    • Stakes: Project FiveThirtyEight predicts that President Biden’s former aide, Budzinski, is “favored” to win the seat. If she does, her win would flip the seat from red to blue. 

    • What to know: Budzinski worked for Biden’s admin as the Chief of Staff for the Office of Management and Budget. Some of her top issues point to tackling the economy. Especially on topics like tax relief, fighting inflation, and gas and energy prices. She describes herself as “pro-choice,” and aims to expand voter access. Meanwhile, local business owner Deering also plans to make the economy her top issue. And will likely challenge Budzinski's approach to inflation. She says inflation, gov spending, and taxes will be her main priorities. Deering is a gun rights advocate, describes herself as “pro-life,” and wants to focus on “election integrity.” 

  • 17th Congressional District Race

    • The candidates: Eric Sorensen (D) vs. Esther Joy King (R)

    • Stakes: Thanks to heavily gerrymandered maps, Dems have likely already flipped the 17th district (which includes most of the state’s northwest corner) in their favor. But don't count Republicans out. While Sorensen is "slightly favored" to win — the race is still neck and neck.

    • What to know: Sorensen is a meteorologist running to represent the contested district. Some of his top priorities are inflation, reproductive rights, job creation, and healthcare. King is an officer in the U.S. Army Reserve. She plans to focus on economic growth, immigration, education, and organized labor. King describes herself as “unapologetically pro-life” and is pro-Second Amendment.  

Ballot measures to watch

Amendment 1: Would establish the right for workers to organize and bargain collectively through chosen reps. It would allow workers to negotiate their pay, benefits, and working conditions. And it would prohibit any laws that interfere with a worker’s ability to do this. Plus it would prohibit agreements that require union membership in order to be employed. PS: Three other states (Hawaii, Missouri, and New York) have collective bargaining enshrined in their constitutions. 


There’s a lot that could change in Illinois this year. And your vote could have a big impact on what that change looks like. But you don’t have forever to decide – voter registration closes 27 days before Election Day. (Reminder: the big day is Nov. 8). Get your ID ready, it’s time to vote. 

PS: Check out our page that will help you build your ballot before you cast your vote.

Live Smarter

Sign up for the Daily Skimm email newsletter. Delivered to your inbox every morning and prepares you for your day in minutes.