Rep. Sean Casten, the first Democrat to represent Illinois' 6th Congressional District in decades, won a second term after his Republican opponent conceded the race early Wednesday.
Casten led Republican Jeanne Ives by five points, 52% to 47%, which equated to more than 17,000 votes, with 99% of precincts reporting early Wednesday. Libertarian Bill Redpath won 2% of the vote, results showed.
Casten declared victory early Wednesday, winning reelection in the district he first turned blue in 2018.
“Tonight, the voters of the 6th District sent a resounding message. They voted for science and facts. They voted for decency, acceptance, and love, and rejected bigotry and racism. They said that they believe we should all have high-quality, affordable health care. They acknowledged the climate crisis and decided we must do something about it," Casten said in a statement.
“To the voters -- you have given me a tremendous amount of responsibility, and I can only hope to live up to your expectations. Over the next two years, you can expect more town halls and accessibility from my office. In Congress, I will continue to advocate for our District on COVID relief, health care, combating climate change and job creation," he added. "More than anything else, thank you to all who participated in this election.”
Hours later, Ives conceded defeat in a lengthy statement in which she again took aim at Democrats in Illinois and said she found "solace" in the rejection of the state's proposal to change to a graduated income tax system.
"For me, this campaign is over," Ives' statement reads, in part.
"In this election, we ran against - not only Sean Casten - but members of both parties’ establishments, the media and other institutions that have protected entrenched interests for decades," she added. "My team fought hard, but in the end the power of the opposition was too great. It is somewhat unclear to me what lies ahead for Illinoisans.
In 2018, Casten defeated six-term incumbent Rep. Peter Roskam by more than 7 points in one of the most high-profile and contentious races in the country during the 2018 midterm elections, a cycle defined by suburban voters turning against the GOP in droves – a narrative that certainly applied to this bellwether district.
The 6th District race last cycle garnered plenty of national attention from the beginning, after Roskam won his seat in 2016 even though Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won the district by 7 points over President Donald Trump - making Roskam a prime target for Democrats looking to take back the House.
The district, largely in DuPage County, had previously been red for decades, represented by Rep. Henry Hyde from 1975 to 2007 and then by Roskam through his 2018 defeat. More than 82% of its residents are white, with a median household income of more than $105,000 a year – the wealthiest of all Congressional districts in Illinois and well above the national average, census data shows.
Casten, a scientist and entrepreneur, highlighted his experience working in the environmental and energy sectors and attacked Roskam over his votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act and for his role as one of the architects of the GOP's 2017 tax cuts experts say largely benefitted corporations and the wealthy.
That effort proved successful and Casten, of Downers Grove, was able to ride the so-called “blue wave” to victory in an area many previously thought was simply out of reach for Democrats.
Casten’s now won a second term over both Redpath and Ives - a conservative firebrand who most recently prior to her congressional run mounted a nearly-successful primary challenge against the incumbent Illinois governor from her same political party.
A West Point graduate and Army veteran, Ives is a former state lawmaker who represented her west suburban House district, which includes parts of Wheaton, Winfield and Naperville, in the General Assembly from 2013 to 2019.
At the same time Casten was running for Congress in 2018, Ives was challenging then-Gov. Bruce Rauner from the right in the Republican primary. She gained the support of conservative groups, donors and voters angered by his signing of legislation to allow Illinois to cover abortions for state employees and Medicaid recipients, as well as a measure to prevent law enforcement from detaining individuals based solely on their immigration status, among other issues.
One of the most notable elements of her campaign was a controversial ad featuring actors thanking Rauner for bills he had signed, including an actor depicting a transgender individual, thanking Rauner for allowing bathroom access in Illinois. The state GOP denounced the ad, widely decried as offensive.
Still, in DuPage County – Ives’ home turf and the county that makes up the majority of the 6th District – she beat Rauner by more than four points, though she ultimately lost the statewide vote by just three points, a margin slimmer than most anticipated, particularly given how little campaign cash she had relative to her opponent.
Long known for her outspoken style, Ives went on the offensive against Casten from the moment she launched her Congressional campaign, calling him a “false prophet” and a “race-baiter,” as well as repeatedly attempting to paint him as a Democratic Socialist. Meanwhile, Casten has deployed former chair of the Illinois Republican Party Pat Brady to appeal to voters, running an ad in which Brady says she and Trump “deny climate change and dangerously ignore the scientists fighting the coronavirus.”
Casten's appeals seemed to pay off Wednesday, and the long Republican-leaning district will for the second time send a Democrat back to Washington.