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Uphill battle expected for Democrats

Through the recent campaign, Democrats insisted they could defeat U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger in the 16th Congressional District in November.

After she won the Democratic primary on Tuesday, Rockford lawyer Sara Dady expressed confidence in her chances in the general election. She noted Democrats won a special election in the solidly Republican 18th Congressional District in Western Pennsylvania last week.

"The 16th in Illinois is less Republican than the 18th in Pennsylvania," Dady said. "At the end of the day, it's not about political affiliation; it's about representation."

But if the 16th District primary election totals were any indication, the Democrats have an uphill climb in the largely rural 16th District, which includes La Salle County.

The combined votes in the Republican primary were 65,520, well more than the Democrats' 41,663.

According to the widely-cited Cook Political Report, the 16th District is rated as "solid Republican."

In an interview, John Jackson, a political science professor at Southern Illinois University, said Tuesday's numbers in the 16th District are "unpromising" for Democrats.

"Statewide, turnout favored Democrats by a two-to-one-margin," Jackson said.

He said the comparison with Pennsylvania's 18th District may not be applicable.

"The 18th was earlier a blue-collar bastion for Democrats and the district is more suburban," Jackson said. "The 16th sounds like a fairly typical mostly rural district. It is mostly Republican."

Brian Gaines, a political science professor at the University of Illinois, said turnout in primary elections is not necessarily a good indicator of the outcomes of general elections, especially when primaries are months beforehand.

But Gaines said the 16th is "far down on the list of plausible pickups" for Democrats.

"There is unlikely to be a tidal wave for Democrats in districts like the 16th," he said.

District-wide, Kinzinger received 68 percent of the vote in the GOP primary. His opponent, James Marter, performed best in La Salle County, holding Kinzinger to 59 percent.

Marter represented the more conservative, tea party wing of the Republican Party. It's harder for more conservative candidates to win primaries in Illinois, Jackson said, noting Illinois Republican leaders tend to be more moderate, including former Govs. Jim Thompson and Jim Edgar.

"Illinois has never been a bastion of tea party strength," Jackson said. "That was proved on Tuesday night."

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