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3rd District carved up

Chuy, Casten move into Clearing, Garfield Ridge; Newman vows fight

By Tim Hadac

and Capitol News Illinois

The shifting sands of political fortunes are having an impact on Clearing and Garfield Ridge, as mapmakers in Springfield have broken up what currently is the Third Congressional District.

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Clearing and Garfield Ridge will be represented in Congress by representatives of the Fourth and Sixth Districts.

The new map was approved late last month by the Illinois General Assembly.

For many years, the Third District stretched from Bridgeport on the east, down the Archer Avenue Corridor all the way out to Lockport—covering a number of Southwest Side neighborhoods and southwest suburban towns. Its boundaries reflected the Democratic political clout of first, former U.S. Rep. William O. Lipinski and then his son, Dan Lipinski.

With the younger Lipinski’s re-election defeat in 2020, his successor—political newcomer Marie Newman of La Grange—was vulnerable in a remapping process in which political veterans typically win and rookies struggle for survival.

In Clearing, the new map means people west of Austin Avenue will be in the new Sixth Congressional District, currently represented by Democrat Sean Casten of Downers Grove. East of Austin, Clearing residents will be in the new Fourth Congressional District, currently represented by Democrat Jesús “Chuy” García of the Little Village neighborhood.

In Garfield Ridge, the new map means almost everyone west of Central Avenue will be in the new Sixth District, except for those east of Austin and south of 55th Street, who will be in the new Fourth District. Also in the new Fourth are everyone in Garfield Ridge who live east of Central.

Newman rails against remap

The map was re-drawn several times, with the final version approved late last week by the Illinois General Assembly.

At one point, Newman complained that she was mapped out of the Southwest Side and into a new district that stretched well into unfamiliar territory in Will County.

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U.S. Rep. Marie Newman (D-3rd)

But that turned into a “be careful what you wish for” situation, because then she was mapped into the Fourth District, which would pit her aagainst García, a political powerhouse both north and south of the Stevenson Expressway, including the Archer Avenue corridor.

Newman responded to the final version of the map by complaining about what she called “decades-old Machine politics, billionaires and deep-pocketed special interests”—and then she announced she would instead seek election in the new Sixth District in 2022, which will pit her against Casten, who has signaled that he plans to run for re-election.

It may be an uphill battle, because she will be running to represent a district she does not live in, and will perhaps inevitably be portrayed as an outsider by Casten.

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U.S. Rep. Sean Casten (D-6th)

That has already started. On her Facebook political page, a person called Newman a “carpetbagger” for running in the Sixth District. Newman responded by claiming her house in La Grange was “moved out by two blocks In the middle of the night on Thursday night at the request of a handful of wealthy donors and high level politicians.”

Newman’s decision also caused a bit of grumbling by a few of her precinct volunteers in Archer Heights and Gage Park, who seemed to accuse her of abandoning them.

The new map essentially assures García of a secure political future, and it also gives him what he asked for: a second congressional district with a strong Latino political presence. (The northern section of the current Fourth District—basically from Humboldt Park on west, will become its own district.)

Nonetheless, García expressed concern about the new map, shortly after it was released.

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U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García (D-4th)

“While I commend the Illinois legislature’s dogged determination to ensure the growth of the Latino population was reflected in Illinois’ final Congressional map, I am stunned and deeply disappointed by the pitting of two incumbent members of Congress against one another in the 4th District — the only Latino-majority Voting Rights Act district in the entire Midwest,” he said.

That said, the congressman’s political lieutenants in Springfield all voted for the new map, including State Senator Celina Villanueva (D-11th) and State Reps. Edgar Gonzalez Jr. (D-21st), Aarón Ortíz (D-1st) and Theresa Mah (D-2nd).

Some leaders mum, but voters offer opinions

As news began to spread about the new map, most civic and business leaders in Clearing and Garfield Ridge declined to comment.

One who did was United Business Association of Midway President Anita Cummings.

“The district boundaries always manage to be totally confusing and bear no resemblance to a constituency and its needs,” she said. “Both Casten and Newman hail from the suburbs. Any knowledge that either professes to understand the southwest area of the city is not evident in their priorities. We on the Southwest Side still struggle with the same issues we have had since the Lipinski reign. Whatever is professed in the campaign speeches usually fails to materialize once these candidates are elected! Our Southwest Side expectations have been ignored for decades.”

Some residents weighed in on social media.

“I hoped Marie Newman would make some kind of a difference here, but then she announces that the overpass at 65th and Harlem is going to be years away, pretty much the same thing [Dan] Lipinski said,” Ken Majka said. “So I’m done with her. I’ll vote for Casten.”

Nicole De Luna said she doesn’t see what difference a new congressman would make.

“That overpass won’t get done, no matter who’s in charge,” she said. “These politicians have been talking and talking for so many years. Who even believes them anymore?”

Craig Rusek said he hopes “García or Casten or whoever gets serious and uses the power of their office to force the Federal Aviation Administration or whoever to provide some relief to Midway-area homeowners stuck with these damn, defective, dangerous windows we got (through the Chicago Department of Aviation’s residential soundproofing program).”

Maria Delgado said she is “disappointed that [mapmakers] did not include the west part of Clearing in Chuy’s district. I like Chuy, and I think he’s more in touch with what Clearing residents want. If we’re represented by some guy in Downers Grove, I worry that he’ll focus on the suburbs, and we’ll be an afterthought.”

Agreeing with Delgado was State Rep. Angelica “Angie” Guerrero-Cuellar (D-22nd). She was the only Democrat in the General Assembly to vote against the remap—reportedly because García’s district stops and Austin and was not extended to Harlem Avenue.

Illinois loses a seat

The new congressional map divides Illinois into 17 districts, one fewer than it currently has due to its loss of population since the 2010 U.S. Census.

The map was the fourth draft plan that legislative Democrats had proposed over the previous two weeks.

Like earlier versions, it collapses two southern Illinois districts into a single district while carving up much of downstate Illinois into a number of oddly-shaped districts that put cities as far apart as East St. Louis and Champaign into one district, with Bloomington and Rockford linked in another.

“This will be the most gerrymandered map in the country,” Sen. Don DeWitte, R-St. Charles, said during floor debate. “And this process will be used as the poster child for why politicians should never be allowed to draw their own maps.”

But Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, who carried the bill on the floor of the Senate, defended the maps, saying, “I’m here to stand behind the work we’ve done.”

“We’ve shown our maps to the public. We have presented them in hearing after hearing after hearing. We have refined them based on the input that we’ve gotten. And I’m proud of this map,” he said.

Most of the legislative wrangling over the past two weeks, however, centered on Chicago and the collar counties, and pressure from within the Democratic caucus to create a second largely-Latino district because of the rapid population growth within that community over the past 10 years.

Illinois’ congressional delegation is currently divided 13-5 in favor of Democrats. Independent analysts, including the nonpartisan Princeton Gerrymandering Project, have estimated that earlier iterations of the plan would give Democrats as many as 14 seats, and Republicans as few as three.

If that holds true, it could have national implications because Democratic congressional leaders are looking to states like Illinois and New York to help offset losses they expect to take in states where Republicans control the redistricting process.

The redistricting plan passed the Senate on a straight party line vote, 41-18. It passed the House nearly on a party line vote, 71-43, losing two Democratic votes.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

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