Today is Illini Voting Day, an event that has been promoted by the Illinois Student Government to mark the first day of early voting on campus, and encourage students to get out and vote before they leave for spring break. Early voting opportunities expand elsewhere today, moving beyond just the County Clerk’s office as the sole early voting location to include several others as well. It seems appropriate to go ahead and throw our voting guide out there, along with strong encouragement to participate in the 2018 primary election. Primary turnout is often low, but really this is an important step toward the midterms in November, which are are kind of crucial this time around.

There are a handful of contested races this time, mostly on the Democratic side of things, but there are some Republican considerations to be made as well. Illinois does not have an open primary, so when you go to vote you must declare whether you want a Democratic or Republican ballot. This doesn’t bind you for life-- it just determines the ballot you will be handed. If you want to know who is on each of those ballots for you, head here to find a sample ballot based on your voter registration. You’ll also find your polling place.

Smile Politely is not endorsing anyone for the primaries, and I’m not going to dive deep into descriptions of each candidate, mostly because there are plenty of places where you can do some detailed info gathering before you head to the polls. The Champaign County Voters Alliance is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization that gives questionnaires to every candidate, and it’s a great resource to be able to compare and contrast answers from candidates in every race that affects voters in Champaign County. Another great resource is the Cheat Sheet of Champaign County Blog. It'll give you more detailed background on issues local to Champaign County. It’s quite thorough, so allow yourself some time to peruse.

Here’s the rundown of the races to watch in this month’s Illinois primary. Note: this will focus on contested races in Champaign County.

Race: Representative in U.S. Congress, 13th District

Why this one matters: At the federal level, Republicans maintain control (I use this word loosely) of the House, Senate, and the White House. If historical patterns tell us anything, it’s that midterm elections usually swing one or both of the houses in the opposite direction of the party of the President, and this particular midterm has the potential to do that in a major way, particularly in the House. We’re not shy here at Smile Politely about our criticisms of Rodney Davis, the Republican who currently holds this seat. You can find evidence of that here, and here, and here, oh and here...I could continue, but you get the idea. So if you are seeking to unseat our friend Rodney, here is your chance to pick who has the best potential to do so. There are five candidates in the Democratic primary; Davis is running unopposed. This seat has been held by a Republican for a long, long, time, even after redistricting, and it’s a district that, save Obama’s first election, has gone red in the presidential election for a long, long, time. If you’d like a chuckle, see our somewhat entertaining, and completely off the mark, stab at possible challengers. You can find questionnaires from the News-Gazette here, and we will be publishing an interview with local candidate Jon Ebel later this week. 

Jon Ebel

David Gill

Erik Jones 

Betsy Dirksen Londrigan

Angel Sides

Race: Representative in U.S. Congress, 15th District

Why this one matters: See above only replace Davis with John Shimkus. This district encompasses a large portion of Champaign County, but not C-U itself. It’s gigantic in land coverage, but quite rural. There are two Democrats looking to run against Shimkus.

Kevin Gaither

Carl Spoerer

Race: Illinois Governor

Why this one matters: It’s been an interesting several years in the State of Illinois, with a Democratic legislature battling it out with Republican governor Bruce Rauner over the state budget. We wrote about the effects it had on our area. The debacle came to an end last summer, with the Illinois House of Representatives voting to override Rauner’s veto of the proposed budget. Perhaps you think Rauner’s role in the budget saga warrants a change in leadership. He is being primaried by Jeanne Ives, and there are six candidates running for the Democratic nomination. The 21st did interviews with the Democratic candidates, you can watch them debate here, and you can check out our interview with Daniel Biss here.

Daniel Biss

Bob Daiber

Tio Hardimon

Chris Kennedy

Robert Marshall

J.B. Pritzker

Race: Illinois Attorney General

Why this one matters: The office has been long held by Lisa Madigan, having won re-election several times over since 2002. She is not seeking re-election, therefore a whopping eight Democratic Candidates are vying for the nomination. There are just two seeking the Republican nod, including local attorney Erika Harold. The job of the attorney general is to advocate for the people of the state, so who do you want to advocate for you? The 21st did interviews with each of the candidates as well.

Democratic candidates:

Scott Drury

Sharon Fairley

Aaron Goldstein

Renato Marrioti

Pat Quinn

Kwame Raoul

Nancy Rotering

Jesse Ruiz

Republican candidates:

Erika Harold

Gary Grasso

Other state races:

Illinois House of Representatives, 101st district: Three Republicans: Dan Caulkins, Randy Keith, and Todd Henricks are running to replace a retiring Bill Mitchell. There are no Democratic candidates

Illinois House of Representatives, 104th district: Democrats Frank McCullough and Cynthia Cunningham are running for the Democratic nomination to fill Chad Hays’ seat, who will not seek re-election. Mike Marron is unopposed on the Republican side.

Illinois 6th Circuit Judge: Republicans Sami Anderson and Randy Rosenbaum are running to fill a vacant seat on the Circuit Court

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Last year’s local elections were centered on city politics, but this year the county is up for grabs. County Clerk Gordy Hulten is stepping down from his position to run for County Executive, a position that was created through a referendum vote last November. The position is essentially a “governor” for the county that would have the power to veto what the county board votes on. Its creation has been a contentious issue, mainly split down party lines, with mostly Republican support and Democratic skepticism. Hulten is the only Republican seeking the position, and Darlene Kloeppel the only Democrat. Let’s put a pin in that one ‘til November. Hulten’s departure leaves the County Clerk seat up for grabs.

Race: County Clerk

Why it matters: The County Clerk has wide ranging duties, but one of the biggest is overseeing elections. In a time where our elections are under unprecedented scrutiny, with good reason, having someone you trust in this position is crucial. Aaron Ammons is the sole Democrat seeking the job (we interviewed him last week), and Republicans Matt Grandone and Jon Rector are competing for the nomination. We interviewed Grandone last week, and we will be publishing an interview with Jon Rector later this week.

Race: County Board Districts 6 and 10

Why it matters: The County Board decides how the county’s money is spent and oversees various county services related to health, public safety, public works, community planning and development, and more. The CC Nursing Home has been the hot button issue this past year, with last year’s election opening up the possibility of its sale. Here are additional candidate questionnaires for District 6 and District 10.

District 6 candidates:

Mike Ingram

Pattsi Petrie

Charles Young

District 10 candidates:

Tanisha King-Taylor

Christopher Stohr

Other local race: Republicans Alan Jones and Gregory Worrell are running for Sheriff

Check out your sample ballot, do your research, finding your polling place, make sure your registered. If you’re not, it’s not too late. You can still register at any early voting location or your Election Day polling place and vote directly after. You can even vote by mail until Thursday. 

For a closer look at the local election process, check out this piece we published last month.