This massive eastern Illinois district covers a whopping 32 counties including Champaign, Vermillion and Johnson, and cities such as Effingham, Danville and Rantoul.
Its demographic breakdown is over 90 percent white and about 51 percent rural, with an average income of around $45,000. Rep. John Shimkus, a Republican serving the newly redistricted 15 since 2013, runs for re-election against Democratic opponent Eric Thorsland. He continues a long line of Republican representatives stretching back to the mid-70s, when one-term Democrat Tim Lee Hall temporarily interrupted the GOP streak from 1975-1977. In general elections two years ago, Shimkus scored nearly 67% of the vote.
Shimkus, a political conservative, ex-schoolteacher and U.S. Army veteran who resides in the St. Louis suburb of Collinsville, staunchly supports a controversial proposal to greenlight the extension of the Canada-U.S. Keystone oil pipeline and opposes legislation to reduce the effects of climate change in America. He sits on the House committee on energy and commerce and also the NATO Parliamentary Assembly comprised of delegates from countries belonging to the international military alliance. Shimkus suffered a temporary health setback in the summer of 2013 when he underwent a non-surgical heart procedure.
Thorsland is a politically idiosyncratic research engineer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's physics department and chairman of Champaign County's zoning board of appeals that resolves land disputes. He leans liberal, supporting organized labor and the environment, but is also a proud gun owner who hunts and drives a motorcycle. According to Thorsland's campaign bio, "Eric believes food security and water quality issues are top priorities and has witnessed firsthand the effects of a changing climate on his farm," which is organic, naturally.
The Rothenberg Political Report dubs Shimkus a "safe Republican," reflecting the outcomes of other election predictors.
The outcome in Shimkus-Thorsland is essentially a foregone conclusion, so something drastic would have to occur to sway the election in Thorsland's favor.