Eric Sorensen (D) and Esther Joy King (R) are running in the general election for Illinois’ 17th Congressional District on November 8, 2022. Incumbent Rep. Cheri Bustos (D) is not running for re-election.
Sorensen worked as a TV meteorologist in Rockford and the Quad Cities area for nearly 20 years, and this is his first run for public office. King, a lawyer and JAG officer in the U.S. Army, was the Republican nominee for the 17th district in 2020. King lost to Bustos 54% to 48%.
Bloomberg Government’s Greg Giroux said, “This race will test the sturdiness of a Democratic gerrymander in an election that’s more likely than not to favor Republicans. Legislators boosted the district’s Democratic leanings after Rep. Cheri Bustos (D) announced her retirement, though Republicans say the reconfigured district—one of 23 nationwide that Biden would have won in 2020 by between 5 and 10 percentage points—is competitive enough for them to flip.”
Three election forecasters rate the race a Toss-up. Monmouth College Professor Robin Johnson said, “It will be very competitive, and I anticipate the parties are going to try to kick money in and resources to try to win this seat.”
A Democrat has represented the 17th district since 1983, except for the period between 2011 and 2013, when former Rep. Bobby Schilling (R) represented the district. Bustos defeated Schilling 53.3% to 46.7% in the 2012 general election and has represented the district since.
Following the 2020 census, the redrawn district has a more Democratic partisan lean than the old district, according to The Cook Political Report and FiveThirtyEight. The Cook PVI (Partisan Voting Index) score for the old district was R+3, while the score for the new district is D+4. According to FiveThirtyEight, the old district had a partisan lean of R+5, while the new district has a partisan lean of D+4.
The redrawn district includes parts of Rockford, Peoria, Bloomington-Normal, Macomb, and the Quad Cities. President Joe Biden (D) received 53% of the redrawn district’s vote in 2020, while former President Donald Trump (R) received 45%.
The outcome of this race will affect the partisan balance of the U.S. House of Representatives in the 118th Congress. All 435 seats in the House are up for election. As of August 3, 2022, Democrats hold a 220-210 advantage in the U.S. House with five vacant seats. Republicans need to gain a net of eight seats to win a majority in the chamber.