Editor's Note: In the final 100 days before Election Day, CNN has been profiling one race at random each day from among the nation's top 100 House races, which we've dubbed "The CNN 100." Read the full list here. Today's featured district is:
Illinois 17th – Rep. Phil Hare (D) is seeking a 3rd term
Primary: February 2, 2010
Location: West-central Illinois
Days until Election Day: 51
One sign of how severe the anticipated Republican wave will be this November will be how hard it hits the 17th congressional district of Illinois. If Democratic Rep. Phil Hare is toppled or given a serious run for his money in his quest for a third term, it is a likely indication that Democrats nationwide are having a rough night.
As the long-time district director for Democratic Rep. Lane Evans, Hare was Evans' pick to succeed him when the 12-term congressman announced his retirement in 2006. Hare won the seat that year with a comfortable 57 percent of the vote and ran unopposed for a second term in 2008.
In Congress, Hare has been a reliable Democratic vote. According to an analysis by Congressional Quarterly, he supported President Obama's position on 96 percent of key votes last year. He voted with a majority of his party on 99 percent of key votes. He supported major Democratic legislative priorities, including the "cap and trade" energy bill, the economic stimulus package, Wall Street reform, and both the House and Senate versions of health care reform.
His GOP opponent this year is Bobby Schilling, a local pizzeria owner and former labor union member who previously worked in the insurance and financial services industry. Schilling is running on a fairly traditional conservative platform. He opposed the Democratic health care reform law and "cap and trade" and has criticized the stimulus package. He also calls for a smaller government, opposes abortion rights, and supports gun rights.
Hare held a financial advantage over Schilling as of mid-year. The incumbent had raised $850,000 in contributions for his campaign, compared to $291,000 for the challenger. Hare also had $856,000 in the bank, compared to $291,000 for Schilling, who loaned his campaign $10,000 from personal funds. Both candidates had spent a relatively modest amount by early July, $70,000 for Hare and $37,000 for Schilling, but that will likely have changed by the time the next campaign finance reports are released in October.
Illinois' 17th district stretches along the state's western hump that borders Iowa and Missouri to the West. Hare's predecessor, Lane Evans, routinely ran in competitive elections here, but the district was significantly redrawn to favor Democrats during the last round of redistricting 10 years ago. Now, the 17th has possibly the oddest shape of any district in the state, with arms and tendrils reaching deep into heavily Democratic pockets of central Illinois. Despite the Democratic-friendly boundary changes, Democrat John Kerry barely won the district with 51 percent to 48 percent over President Bush in 2004, worse than the 54 percent Democrat Al Gore had won here in 2000 under the old lines. President Obama won the district with a decisive 57 percent in 2008.
The hard-wiring of the district gives Hare an advantage in this race, but President Bush's strong 2004 performance shows that Republicans have the potential to do well here. Schilling trails in the overall money race, but he's raised enough to get his message out and give the incumbent something to worry about. Though Hare has two wins under his belt, 2010 may fully test Hare in a way the Democratic wave years of 2006 and 2008 did not.