May 6, 2022 - Politics

Illinois Democrats bid for early presidential primary

Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.)

Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.), chair of the Illinois Democratic Party. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images.

Illinois Democrats are joining an increasingly crowded field of state parties vying to hold a coveted early presidential primary, they announced on Friday.

Why it matters: The Iowa caucus has been the first presidential contest in the country for half a century, but a new Democratic National Committee process allowing states to apply for early primaries puts that at risk.

  • Illinois joins three other Midwestern states already vying to jump ahead in the calendar: Nebraska, Michigan and Minnesota.

The context: The aim of the open application process is to give states with more diversity an opportunity to have more sway in selecting Democratic nominees.

  • Diversity is one of three selection criteria laid out in a resolution passed by a DNC panel. Another is competitiveness in general elections.
  • What Illinois lacks in competitiveness, it makes up for in diversity. Analyses by FiveThirtyEight and NPR found Illinois’ demographics more closely mirror those of the nation than any other state.

What they’re saying: Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.), the chair of the Illinois Democratic Party, said in a letter of intent to DNC Chair Jaime Harrison that "Illinois represents a true test of what presidential candidates will face across the nation."

  • "As an early primary state, Illinois can help strengthen the Democratic Party’s presidential candidates in the primary and the general elections," she wrote.
  • She highlighted the state's mix of urban and rural communities, its demographic diversity and its hotly contested 2016 Democratic primary.
  • Governor J.B. Pritzker said in a statement, "Our strength is in our diversity. Whether measured by race, age, income, industry, or education—Illinois looks like America."

The big picture: With around a dozen states across the country bidding to hold early contests, the Midwest is easily the most contested region.

  • Iowa’s lack of racial or geographic diversity, continued embrace of a caucus system, drift towards Republicans in general elections and its chaotic 2020 caucus have converged to place it on the chopping block.
  • Still, every region has its contenders: Washington in the West, Georgia and Texas in the South and New Jersey in the Northeast.

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