New Illinois Congressional Map Released

May 27, 2011

(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)

Illinois Democrats have released a much-anticipated map of new congressional districts.

The new map shows the state with 18 U.S. House districts after it lost one of its seats because of slowing population growth in the latest census.

The congressional map is a chance for Democrats to try to neutralize Republicans who captured a number of U.S. House seats in the last election.

The proposed map squeezes districts into new shapes and some Republicans will find themselves drawn into districts with other incumbents. A political science professor at the University of Illinois said the map could force Republican incumbents to face off in a primary or campaign elsewhere.

Brian Gaines said it appears as if Democrats deliberately chose new districts that could make life hard for some GOP incumbents. The map places much of Champaign-Urbana in a new 13th congressional district that also includes parts of Madison County, home to Republican John Shimkus. Meanwhile, Urbana Republican Tim Johnson's 15th district would draw all or parts of 33 counties in Southeast Illinois. Gaines said some changes had to be made because Illinois lost a Congressional seat due to population shifts, but he said some could have been intentional.

"It does look very much like they picked their shapes given where there were population losses, where you had to draw the line," Gaines said. "They went out of their way to make sure Republican incumbents would be paired up and would have this difficult choice of running against each other in the primary, or trying to relocate and run in a district that doesn't have very many voters who have ever voted for them before."

In a statement, Congressman Johnson called the map 'a slap in the face' to the notion of representative government, dividing communities for blatant partisan gain.' The one portion of Champaign-Urbana that remains in Johnson's district is his home in the Beringer Commons subdivision.

The Congressman said he will embrace new territories with all his energy, but spokesman Phil Bloomer said there will likely be a legal challenge to the new map since it only contains one Hispanic district in the Chicago area. But he says the map should be rejected on principle alone for splitting up communities like Champaign-Urbana, and adding all the counties to the south.

"That's a long way from tom to bottom," said Bloomer. "And a lot of new territory, and a lot of new people to get to know. It hurts because you build up these relationships with people and institutions in all these areas in the last 10 years Tim has been in office. And it's hard to give all that up."

Gaines said 11th District Republican Adam Kinzinger may have worst position of all incumbents in the new map, because his district has been stretched out to a suburban Chicago area served by Democrat Jesse Jackson Jr.

The proposed congressional map was the last piece of the redistricting puzzle for Illinois Democrats. They have already released proposed new state House and Senate districts. Democrats are in charge of the process because they control the state Legislature and the governor's office.

Here's a look at some of the key changes:

+Judy Biggert, 13th CD: Placed at the suburban end of a new 5th district that stretches to Chicago and the territory of Democrat Mike Quigley.

+Robert Dold, 10th CD: Would share a new 9th district with popular Democratic incumbent Jan Schakowsky.

+Randy Hultgren, 14th CD: House lies just yards inside the boundaries of new 14th, which would also be home to Joe Walsh

+Adam Kinzinger, 11th CD: Put into the rural, less-populated end of a new 2nd with long-time incumbent Jesse Jackson Jr.

+Bobby Schilling, 17th CD: New 17th loses rural, Republican territory and picks up Democratic-leaning areas, including Peoria.

+Joe Walsh, 8th CD: Lumped with Hultgren into the new 14th.

Story source: WILL