Illinois one step closer to general election

Central Illinois’ primary results set the stage for the long fight to November.

The spring primary gave Central Illinois residents a look at who will battle for congressional seats between now and November 6. On March 20, Illinois voters grappling with high gas prices, energy needs, foreign policy decisions and a stagnant 8.3 percent unemployment rate cast their ballots.

Peoria Weighs In

Democrats Matthew Woodmancy from Pekin and Easton resident Steve Waterworth saw their primary contest for the 18th District congressional seat come to a head with Waterworth grabbing a landslide victory over his opponent. The Easton Democrat won with 70 percent or 9,871 votes. Woodmancy finished with 30 percent, or 4,269 votes.  Waterworth will challenge two-term incumbent Republican Congressman Aaron Schock in November’s general election.

This year marks Waterworth’s third time seeking election to the 18th District following two failed campaigns against Republican powerhouse Ray LaHood in 2004 and 2006.

Waterworth, 64, says he’s running against a “do-nothing Congress” and claims he will defend Obama’s health care reforms in Washington. If elected to office, Waterworth says he will help middle-class workers find jobs rather than “working for the richest of Americans.”

Kinzinger Takes 16th District

The U.S. Houses’ most significant primary battle for the district covering north-central Illinois has been dubbed a GOP generational fight between U.S. House Republican colleagues Adam Kinzinger, 34, and Donald Manzullo, 67. The fierce primary battle ended with Kinzinger defeating the congressional veteran, 54 to 48 percent. Kinzinger garnered 39,726 votes to Manzullo’s 36,071. Between January 1 and February 29, Kinzinger outspent Manzullo by approximately $150,000. The darling of House leadership, the freshman congressman received a healthy boost from the Young Guns Action Fund super PAC that spent $52,000 on a radio ad promoting Kinzinger. The PAC is run by a former aid to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the latter of whom endorsed Kinzinger in March, making good on a promise he made to the Illinois Republican last summer.

Manzullo, who began the race with a geographical advantage, has served the 16th District for 26 years. A large percentage of his current district lies in the new 16th district. Kinzinger, a former Air National Guard pilot, began his service to the 11th District after a slew of Republican wins in 2010. The freshman congressman, who serves as a Deputy Republican Whip and a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, opted to run against Manzullo after state Democrats redrew the district map, dividing the candidates’ old districts and placing Kinzinger’s home in a largely Democratic district, which includes areas of Chicago. The newly drawn territory includes the northern portion of Stark County and all of Bureau and Putnam.

Picking Up Support

Similarities run deep between the two Members, both of which are fiscally and socially conservative with an eye for cutting federal spending. But the vast difference in age between the candidates was reflected in support among House members. House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) Freedom Project PAC donated $5,000 to Kinzinger at the end of last year. Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who served with Manzullo for over a decade in Congress, contributed $5,000 to his former colleague last month from his PAC, Keep Our Mission.

Cantor donated $5,000 to Kinzinger in 2011 through his Every Republican is Crucial PAC. Likewise, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) threw his support behind the freshman congressman with a donation last year. Representative John Shimkus gave his support to both candidates.

Although ideology left little room for differences between the two GOP members, Kinzinger, who claims the nation’s capital is “definitely not lacking in seniority,” liked to portray himself as one of the fresh faces of the GOP who helped give the party its current majority in the House. One of Kinzinger’s campaign ads highlighted the generational chasm between the past and the future of the Republican Party. Calling Manzullo “part of the old Majority that lost its way on spending, the ad questions: “What can Don Manzullo accomplish in the next two years that he couldn’t accomplish in the last twenty?”

His opponent struck back with ads depicting himself as the “true conservative” and shedding light on the “millions” Kinzinger spent on “Nancy Pelosi’s pet earmark.” Kinzinger’s record, the ad claims, “isn’t much different than the Democrat he replaced.”

Manzullo says he is both trusted and experienced, and his years in Congress have taught him how to get things done for his constituents. He pointed to his creation of the House Manufacturing Caucus and other local projects to which he contributed that helped create jobs.