Manzullo gears up for primary with new map

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For as long as I can remember — heck, even before that — the 16th Congressional District of Illinois has had Rockford as its focal point. Geographically, it has been an east-west district across much of the top of Illinois.

That no longer will be true, provided the Democrats’ redistricting plan stands as written. The city of Rockford has been split in two, with Democratic areas going to a new 17th District and Republican areas going to a new 16th District that bears little resemblance to the district of today and decades past.

In both new districts, Rockford is an afterthought. The focus of both districts will shift south, east and west.

Assuming he runs for re-election — and he says he is — 10-term U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo, R-Egan, will have to campaign in a new district that stretches down to east-central Illinois to the Indiana border. I daresay he’s unknown to most voters in much of the new district.

Rich Carter, Manzullo’s spokesman, assured me Tuesday that Manzullo is in active campaign mode and will be a candidate in 2012.

Even if he has a GOP primary challenger? I asked.

Carter protested several times that it’s too soon to speculate on a primary challenge because, “We don’t think the Democrats’ map will stand.” Republicans are trying to overturn the map, and newspaper editorials have urged Gov. Pat Quinn to veto it, Carter said.

That may be wishful thinking. Case in point: U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, is renting an apartment in the new 13th district because he believes a GOP challenge is futile.

“The reality is this is the district. We’re going to file a lawsuit but it’s not going to succeed, so you’ve just got to go forward with the way it is,” Johnson told the Champaign News-Gazette.

I, too, think the Democrats’ congressional map will stand because the stakes are so high: Illinois represents the party’s best hope for picking up seats in 2012. Dems need to flip 24 seats to regain control of the U.S. House, and the party hopes to pick up as many as five seats in Illinois through the magic of their new map.

For instance, the new 17th District, which adds parts of Peoria and Rockford to the Illinois portion of the Quad Cities, is designed to boot out freshman U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Colona, and replace him with a Democrat. State Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria, has already announced his candidacy and has visited power brokers — at least one is a Republican — in Rockford.

“We know we have to live within our means, we have to cut spending, we have to cut the deficit. Does that mean we cut Medicare? Contrast that to tax cuts (for the wealthiest Americans). I don’t think that passes the fairness test in people’s minds,” Koehler was quoted in the Peoria Journal-Star.

While the new 16th District still tilts Republican, the big challenge Manzullo may face is from freshman U.S. Rep. Adam Kinsinger, R-Manteno, who Democrats tossed into a left-leaning district represented by U.S. Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr.

Kinsinger’s only hope of remaining in Congress is to move to a friendlier district. If the 33-year-old does run in the new 16th, he’s sure to give Manzullo one heck of a GOP primary battle — and Manzullo may be rusty. Don hasn’t had serious competition since 1992.

By: Chuck Sweeny
Source: Rockford Register Star

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