Progressives look to continue gains on Illinois primary day

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Progressives look to continue gains on Illinois primary day
FILE - In this Feb. 13, 2018 file photo Democratic candidate for the 3rd congressional district Marie Newman speaks with supporters at a campaign event in LaGrange, Ill. (AP Photo by Sara Burnett File)

CHICAGO (AP) — Progressives face their next test Tuesday in Illinois, with a slew of candidates vying for a chance to help Democrats try to gain control of the U.S. House this fall.

Enthusiasm already has been higher than usual among Democrats in the left-leaning state. In several districts currently held by Republican congressmen — areas where Democrats have sometimes struggled to field even one candidate — roughly a half dozen Democrats are seeking the party’s nomination in Tuesday’s primary. Many of them are motivated by President Donald Trump’s election and his policies.

Tuesday’s primary also will decide whether one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress keeps his seat, as well as the likely successor to longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, who’s retiring. There also are hotly contested primaries for governor and attorney general as well as legislative races, among others. Here’s a look:

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CONGRESS:

Political newcomer Marie Newman is challenging seven-term Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski in the 3rd Congressional District, backed by progressive groups and lawmakers including Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Newman calls Lipinski, who is anti-abortion and voted against the Affordable Care Act, a “full-on Republican” whose positions no longer reflect those of the heavily Democratic district that includes parts of Chicago and its suburbs.

Lipinski calls Newman and her supporters a “tea party of the left.” He says their intolerance for differing viewpoints within the party could end up hurting Democrats.

Seven Democrats are looking to take on GOP Rep. Peter Roskam for the seat representing the 6th Congressional District. Voters in the suburban Chicago district supported Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016, making it one of Democrats’ top pick-up possibilities in November.

“We deserve a representative who will represent us,” said candidate Kelly Mazeski.

Democrats seeking to replace Gutierrez are Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, activist Sol Flores and Chicago police officer Richard Gonzalez.

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GOVERNOR

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner has a primary challenge from state Rep. Jeanne Ives, a fiscal and social conservative who says the first-term governor has betrayed the party on issues such as immigration and abortion.

In the Democratic primary, billionaire J.B. Pritzker has put roughly million into his campaign. Among the five others seeking the nomination are Chris Kennedy, nephew of the late President John F. Kennedy, and state Sen. Daniel Biss, a self-described “middle-class candidate” who says he’ll stand up to the “millionaires and billionaires.”

A Pritzker/Rauner matchup in the general election could make the contest the most expensive governor’s race in U.S. history, with Rauner already spending freely from his own personal fortune.

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ATTORNEY GENERAL

Former Gov. Pat Quinn and state Sen. Kwame Raoul are among eight Democrats seeking the nomination to replace Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Her surprise announcement that she wouldn’t seek a fifth term prompted the large group of hopefuls to get into the race.

Raoul and Quinn have battled it out through competing campaign ads in the final push of the primary election, accusing each other of conflicts of interest and other inappropriate behavior. Also running are state Rep. Scott Drury, Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering, former Civilian Office of Police Accountability administrator Sharon Fairley, former Illinois State Board of Education chairman Jesse Ruiz, MSNBC legal contributor Renato Mariotti and Aaron Goldstein, a member of ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s defense team.

In the Republican primary, attorney and former Miss America Erika Harold has scored contributions from Rauner and backing from the Illinois Republican Party. She faces former Burr Ridge Mayor Gary Grasso, who’s questioned Harold’s experience and her ability to stand up to establishment politics.

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LEGISLATURE

Deep intra-party divisions also have surfaced in legislative primaries.

A conservative political action committee that once backed Rauner is now supporting challengers to GOP House members who helped Democrats approve an income tax hike to end a state budget stalemate last year. The group also is funding a challenge to House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, who didn’t vote for the tax increase but has attracted conservative anger for his failure to hold his caucus together and stop it.

Longtime Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, a near-constant GOP target, is also an issue in several Democratic primaries. In the race for an open northwest Cook County seat, lawyer Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz has been criticized by her four opponents for taking money from Madigan campaign accounts and called on to return it. She says she’s not beholden to him.

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CYBERSECURITY

Election officials say Illinois is remaining vigilant against cybersecurity risks after Russian hackers were able to breach the state’s voter registration systems in 2016.

State Board of Elections spokesman Matt Dietrich says state officials have been working with the Department of Homeland Security to test Illinois’ voting registration systems weekly for vulnerabilities.

Dietrich said he doesn’t anticipate any issues with the voting systems themselves, as a hacker would need physical access to the machines.

Russian agents targeted elections systems in 21 states ahead of the 2016 election, according to DHS. In Illinois, hackers accessed 76,000 active voter registration records but were unable to add, change or delete any data.

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Associated Press reporter Sarah Zimmerman contributed from Springfield.