The 2010 primary season kicks off on Tuesday in Illinois. In 2008, the state moved its presidential primary to the new super-early "Super Tuesday," and also moved its regular primaries, which used to be in March, up as well. They haven't been moved back for the midterm elections, so Illinois gets play New Hampshire and host the "first-in-the-nation" primaries this year. (For a complete, sortable calendar of 2010 primaries, click here.) Below is a roundup of some of the key races to watch for:
IL-Sen (D): Democrats have a three-way race to nominate a successor to Barack Obama (well, technically, to Roland Burris's mausoleum). State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias leads in the polls, but his numbers are only in the 30s. It's possible that a late surge by former Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman (or, somewhat less likely, Chicago Urban League President Cheryle Jackson) could up-end this race. Giannoulias is getting pounded for his family's involvement in a failed bank - a particularly toxic piece of baggage in this environment. A recent Rasmussen poll had him up 31-23 over Hoffman (Jackson was back at 13), so an upset is within the realm of possibility.
IL-Sen (R): The Republican contest is, sadly, much less interesting. "Moderate" Rep. Mark Kirk compiled a voting record over the years which ought to enrage any full-blooded teabagger, but he successfully pirouetted to his right during the primary. This seems to have kept real estate developer and wingnut Patrick Hughes from gaining any traction - polls show Kirk cruising. The real question at this point is whether Kirk's rightward shift will come back to haunt him in the general.
IL-Gov (D): Last summer, when state Comptroller Dan Hynes decided to challenge incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn in the primary, it seemed like a weird choice. Quinn had just ascended to office in the wake of Rod Blagojevich's impeachment and seemed pretty popular. And as the year chugged along, polls kept showing Quinn with healthy leads. But Hynes turned the volume way up over the last couple of months, going sharply negative on Quinn on a range of issues, including crime. Now polls have the race a tossup, though Hynes is almost certainly peaking at the right time and could very well knock off a sitting governor. That'll be one hell of a long lame-duck period. Ouch.
IL-Gov (R): The GOP nomination is truly up for grabs - at least four guys probably have a legit shot at the nod (take a look at the crazy Pollster.com graph). Former state AG Jim Ryan was the early favorite, but he seemed to be relying heavily on name recognition. That's given former state GOP chair Andy McKenna a chance to raise his profile via a massive TV ad campaign, and it looks like he may have the late mo'. Kirk Dillard and Billy Brady probably have a chance to sneak through as well.
IL-08 (R): Six different Republicans are vying to challenge Dem Rep. Melissa Bean. Despite the seemingly favorable environment for GOPers, no one of any stature wound up getting into this race, probably because of how handily Bean dispatched well-funded opponents in both 2006 and 2008. With any luck, this won't be a race to watch come November.
IL-10 (D): Mark Kirk's swingy suburban Chicago district is the only open seat in Illinois this cycle (so far), and it's attracted a lot of interest on both sides. Marketing consultant Dan Seals, the Dem nominee in 2006 and 2008, has the edge in name rec, but he lost to Kirk twice, in back-to-back strong Dem cycles. Rep. Julie Hamos might therefore have an opening, if 10th District Dems want to give a new face a shot. In a possible sign of Seals fatigue, Hamos has outraised him 2-to-1 (a mil to about half a mil). Still, the only released poll of this race was a Seals internal which gave him a 50-point lead. Don't scoff: He won his last primary, against the well-funded Jay Footlik, by about 60 points.
IL-10 (R): The race to be the next Mark Kirk has come down to state Rep. Beth Coulson, businessman Bob Dold and another businessman, Dick Green. (I love that super-vague epithet, "businessman.") Coulson's moderate profile seemed to make her a good fit to inherit Kirk's mantle, but Dold has raised a lot of money and seems to be exciting conservatives. Green has also spent a lot, but it's mostly been his own campaign cash. There haven't been any polls of this race, so to me the question is whether Coulson will get Scozzafava'ed, or will Green and Dold split the winger vote and let her escape? We'll see soon enough.
IL-11 (R): Iraq veteran Adam Kinzinger was annointed by the establishment early on as the favorite to take on freshmen Dem Rep. Debbie Halvorson, and that predictably means outsider conservatives have been gunning for him. Still, his opponents in the primary are a joke - Kinzinger's raised some $400K, his nearest competitor, $1K. I'll be curious about his final tally at the polls, though, just to see how warmly (or coldly) the teabaggers really do feel about him.
IL-14 (R): The Republicans are hard at work smashing each other on the head in the battle to take on Dem Rep. Bill Foster. Foster, as you'll recall, snatched this seat in a special election two years ago. It was held by none other than former Republican Speaker of the House Denny Haster, whose son Ethan is one of two contenders trying to win this district back for the GOP. The other is state Sen. Randy Hultgren, who is more or less running as "not-Hastert" (several other candidates dropped out in favor of Hultgren so that the anti-Hastert vote would not get split). The campaign has turned extremely nasty: Hultgren was recently forced to launch an apologetic robocall after he sent out a mailer accusing Hastert of supporting human trafficking. Dems are hoping for a repeat of 2008, where a vicious GOP primary ultimately helped Foster at the polls. (This year, though, there's a lot more time for wounds to heal before the general.)
There are, of course, plenty of other primaries at all levels taking place in Illinois on Tuesday. If you know of any other interesting races, please let us know in comments.