Candidates struggle for the electable image

With the upcoming Illinois presidential primary next month, the Congressional primary elections are often glossed over. Republicans vote for the Republican candidate, Democrats vote for the Democratic candidate.

In the 9th district, the Democrat usually wins. It’s been that way since 1949, when Sidney Yates took office.

Our current representative, Democratic Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, who lives in Wilmette, has been in office since 1999. Challenged by Republican and Democrats alike, and even Libertarian and Green Party members, she has held on to her seat, usually with over 60% of the 9th District’s vote.

This year Schakowsky is up against Democratic write- in candidate Andrew Heldut and Republican Sargis Sangari. Schakowsky, who is currently in her eleventh term, is a member of many House Committees, including the House Budget Committee, the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and the Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee, of which she is the Chair. She has done work in Congress regarding healthcare, helping to pass the Patient Protectionand Affordable Care Act.

Schakowsky has been a Senior Chief Deputy Whip since 2019, assisting the Democratic Congressional Whip in management of the floor. She specializes in seniorhealth issues and women’s issues and has endorsed Elizabeth Warren for president, putting her far left politically but not a Democratic Socialist like Bernie Sanders.

Schakowsky has raised controversy from some Democratic voters over her views on the Israel-Palestine crisis. Citing her Jewish faith, Schakowsky is very pro-Israel when other Democratic candidates are pro-Palestine.

Heldut, the Democratic primary challenger, is slightly more liberal than Schakowsky and a self- proclaimed Sanders supporter. A Chicago lawyer and the son of Polish immigrants, He interned for both Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and Illinois Senator Dick Durbin.

Heldut believes that Schakowsky has been in office for too long and says that he would resign by 2032 if he was re-elected for six terms.

Heldut believes in student loan forgiveness and lower tuition fees, which he claims that Schakowsky does not endorse. According to his website, he said Schakowsky has been an unsuccessful Congresswoman and he pledges to be more active in Congress.

Heldut seems to represent the polarization of the Democratic Party. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are politically similar, withBernieslightlytotheleftofWarren. The party is already split over progressives like Sanders and Warren and moderate Democrats like Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden.

Pitting progressives against each other creates a divide for leftist Democrats, who have lots of support but broader electability concerns. Those who view Sanders and Warren as safety candidates for each other may be more inclined to vote for a centrist like Buttigieg because his separation from the left doesn’t involve fine details and is less abstract.

The Republican candidate for the 9th District is Lieutenant Colonel Sargis Sangari. Originally from Iran, he moved to the United States in 1980 following the Iranian Revolution. According to his campaign biography, LTC Sangari is a decorated veteran of the United States Army and has years of military experience, spending lots of time in the Middle East. He founded the Near East Center for Strategic Engagement, a policy and research think tank focusing on U.S. foreign and military

policy in regards to the Middle East. His campaign website lists no political issues, making it nearly impossible for constituents to access and analyze his political stances. Jan Schakowsky is likely to be elected. She has been the 9th District’s Congresswoman for over 20 years and has been re-elected ten times. Incumbents have traditionally high reelection rates, but in 2018, 8.7% of returning candidates lost their seats, according to Ballotpedia.

This is not a high percentage, but it was the highest since 2012. However, the 9th District is relatively predictable based on past trends and would most likely not diverge from them.

Quite frankly, the other candidates don’t stand a chance. Heldut is not extremely well-known and a write-in candidate, which is not a successful combination. He also separates himself distinctly from Schakowsky and Warren, which could be confusing to Democratic voters who see their similarities more than their differences. By setting himself apart from Warren and Schakowsky, Heldut alienates himself as an almost non-Democratic Democrat, who is a leftist but not quite a traditional liberal.

Sangari is running in a district that has been Democratic for the last seventy-one years. This is most likely because the district includes parts of the Chicago area, and cities and the surrounding communities tend to vote blue.

Though Sangari and Heldut won’t be seriously considered by most voters, as the Democratic Party drifts left, some centrists and moderate Democrats could be more inclined to choose a conservative candidate in future elections.