Diving Down the Ballot
I'm not going out on much of a limb to suggest that Durbin's return is all but inevitable, but there are a number of local House races that remain competitive, including Dan Seals' bid to upset Republican incumbent Mark Kirk in the 10th Illinois Congressional District, and the clash for Congressman Weller's vacant seat in the 11th District to our south between Republican businessman Marty Ozinga and Democratic state senator Debbie Halvorson. These outcomes, and many others across the nation, will go a long way in determining the ease by which President Obama will enact his ambitious agenda, or the strength of the opposition to President McCain's vision for America.
The outcome of several senate races outside of Illinois will yield a Democratic majority somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 seats to the Republican's 40, give or take one or two in either direction. Sixty is the magic number for Democrats, as they would have a filibuster-proof majority to basically steamroll their agenda over a powerless Republican minority. The contest in Minnesota between incumbent Republican Senator Norm Coleman and Democratic challenger, and former comedian Al Franken is one of many to eyeball as the results trickle in next Tuesday.
Unfortunately, media coverage focuses excessively on the race atop the ticket, and this blog is complicit on this count, too. Our Senate race in Illinois is not competitive and has thus been all-but-ignored by local and state media outlets. The Chicagoland area encompasses 14 different congressional districts. A handful of these races are competitive (including the two referenced above) and are afforded some ink in daily newspapers, but most are ignored given the time and resources necessary to covering each of these contests. We are left to sift through the ads interspersed on our nightly television programs, run mostly by incumbents who have war chests their challengers simply can't match.
Taken together, we enter the final stretch of this election fairly informed about our choices for president, but woefully ill-prepared as we move down the ballot. While the media certainly deserves credit for the former, any blame they rightly receive for the latter is misplaced at this stage of the game. It is up to us as citizens to actively seek this information. I recommend visiting Project Vote Smart, along with the League of Women Voters, for candidate responses to questionnaires administered by these organizations. Visits to the candidate web sites themselves are also helpful. Newspapers' scant coverage of the down ballot candidates are often cataloged on their web sites, along with their endorsements in each of these races.
I'll return on Thursday with a look at the referenda on the ballot in Illinois and several other key states across the country, including whether we should call another constitutional convention in the Prairie State. Until then, I encourage you to seek out facts that will better prepare you for your foremost role as citizen next Tuesday, that of serving as an informed voter.