This central Illinois district contains capitol city Springfield as well as Peoria and Jacksonville, and holds the distinction of having been represented by Abraham Lincoln before his presidential career.
The spotlight-loving Aaron Schock, a Republican, has repped the 18th for the past five years and runs for re-election against Democratic challenger Darrel Ervin Miller. Schock succeeds a long, continuous stretch of GOP state reps dating back to 1939. That's 75 years of Republican dominance. Last election, in 2012, the congressman scored 74 percent of the vote, easily defeating Democrat Steve Waterworth. Schock won 69 percent of the vote in 2010, and 59 percent in 2008, a natural climb for an incumbent in a GOP-held district.
Schock is an ambitious conservative Republican and frequent TV talking head; as a side effect of his celebrity, he has also gained internet fame for his colorful Instagram account. The 33-year-old wunderkind is the second youngest member of the U.S. House, and was previously the youngest member of Illinois' House of Representatives during his two-term Springfield stint. In Washington, his legislative agenda has centered on economic issues including tax reform. He's a vocal advocate for renewable energy.
Miller, a self-described "Mennonite farmer" and family man, has shifted party loyalties after unsuccessfully running for U.S. Congress on the Republican ticket in 2012. On his campaign website, he explains: "Though I have supported both Democrats and Republicans, I find supporting Republicans increasingly difficult. … In current Republican thinking, any increase in capital gains taxes is called 'class warfare.' Needed immigration reform languishes, deferring the acknowledged national benefits included in the DREAM Act. Partisanship abounds."
In Schock's direction. The congressman is considered a "safe Republican," according to Politico's 2014 House race ratings, and boasts the advantage of incumbency. Constituents are familiar with Schock's politics and voter support for him has grown with each election cycle. His opponent, meanwhile, is at a disadvantage due to his status as political neophyte.
Nothing, and Miller knows it. Speaking last April at a tea party event—how random is that?—the Republican-turned-Democrat acknowledged that his odds of winning are slim to none. "I'm the underdog candidate," he said.