The race for Illinois 13th Congressional District is a high-profile rematch between incumbent Republican Rep. Rodney Davis and Democratic challenger Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, taking a second swing at the district he won by less than a point in 2018.
Davis is seeking a fifth term in office, having held the seat since 2013. The central Illinois district stretches from Bloomington to Alton at its southwest border and includes Springfield, Champaign, Decatur, Taylorville and more.
He narrowly fended off the 2018 challenge from Londrigan by a razor-thin margin of three-fourths of a point, earning just 2,058 more votes in a race that was so close, CNN projected Londrigan as the winner on election night before all the votes were tallied.
That margin of victory was Davis’ slimmest since his first election, having won by nearly 20 points in the next two cycles. In 2016, President Donald Trump carried the district by 6 points, but the so-called “blue wave of the midterms two years later helped propel Londrigan to within striking distance.
Like Democratic challengers across Illinois and the U.S., Londrigan made healthcare and coverage for pre-existing conditions a central part of her platform, a message she’s returned to this cycle, recounting her son’s experience with a life-threatening illness and taking aim at Davis’ vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Davis has attacked Londrigan predominantly by tying her to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and painting her views as too liberal, particularly her support for a public health insurance option.
Both worked in politics before running for office: Davis as an aide to Rep. John Shimkus and Londrigan as fundraiser for Sen. Dick Durbin. Now, millions have been pouring in for both candidates in their high-profile rematch.
Londrigan was endorsed by both Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden as well as former President Barack Obama in the race that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee specifically targeted as one of the top districts they’re hoping to flip.
For his part, Davis – who has occasionally criticized some of Trump’s statements over the years – campaigned with Vice President Mike Pence as well as Ivanka Trump in 2018 and was named one of the “honorary state chairs” for the president’s reelection campaign in Illinois.
One important element of this race that might be different this time around is the college vote. The 13th District includes several universities: the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Illinois State University and Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, among others.
Many of those college campuses and communities, typically Democratic-leaning, are areas where Londrigan racked up big vote totals in 2018, helping to offset Davis’ margins of victory in the more rural and conservative parts of the district. Might the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has upended college life, campaigns and in-person events across the country, impact turnout on those campuses?
With such a small number of votes separating the two in their last head-to-head battle, this expensive and highly contested race is one where even a single ballot could be the tipping point.