Freshman Democratic Rep. Lauren Underwood said Monday that she thinks the influence of the party’s presidential contenders on her chances for reelection in the traditionally Republican 14th Congressional District would be “neutral at best or really difficult at worst.”
Appearing before about 150 people at the City Club of Chicago, Underwood was asked if she shared concerns among some Democratic moderates that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders could hurt down-ballot Democrats who won in 2018 or are in swing districts, should he win the nomination.
“Some people are neutral and some people are not and no one in my opinion that’s running on the Democratic ticket is helpful to me in my race,” Underwood replied, drawing murmurs from the crowd.
Underwood defeated three-term GOP Rep. Randy Hultgren in 2018 in an exurban district that has long backed conservative Republicans. She noted that she defeated Hultgren by 5 percentage points while J.B. Pritzker lost to Bruce Rauner in the district by 8 percentage points — though Pritzker defeated Rauner statewide by 16 percentage points.
Political consultant Jim Terman, who posed the question, told Playbook that Underwood’s answer “caught folks by surprise…but when you think about it, it made sense.” […]
Underwood’s response explains the reality of being a Democrat in a swing district, says senior adviser Ronnie Cho. “Her re-election has more to do with her than anybody else. She knows her re-election is contingent on her campaign, policies and record,” Cho told Playbook.
And if there’s any question about Underwood’s dedication to Democratic infrastructure, Cho points to the political action committee Underwood just started to help down-ballot candidates. Farm Team PAC is focused on electing Democratic candidates within IL-14.
Only two statewide Democratic candidates won Underwood’s district in 2018: Secretary of State Jesse White (who won 14 of 16 districts) and Comptroller Susana Mendoza (who won all but four districts). No statewide Dems won the district in the 2016 and 2012 presidential cycles, and only White won it in 2014.
By the way, as I told subscribers yesterday, Underwood’s Farm Team PAC had just $992.69 in the bank at the end of 2019 and hasn’t reported any contributions since then. It was created about 13 months ago.
…Adding… With thanks to a commenter, here’s a story about an Indivisible Evanston gathering for Underwood last week...
Underwood also emphasized her role as a bipartisan congresswoman who can appeal to a variety of voters. She said many Trump supporters voted for her in 2018, and hopes to continue that trend. […]
Underwood stressed to Evanston residents that they might have to speak cautiously when helping her campaign in the district. She said they should speak on shared values as opposed to a “lack of empathy for our neighbors.”
Additionally, Underwood instructed those helping the campaign to maintain “awareness and discipline” when knocking on the doors of District 14 voters, who are generally not as liberal as many Evanston residents.
“Speaker Pelosi has a lot of sayings, but one of the things that she always tells us is that the things you can say in San Francisco you can’t say Michigan, but what you can say in Michigan, you can say San Francisco; you’re San Francisco, I’m Michigan,” Underwood said.
She also said potential GOP opponent Jim Oberweis has “very well-established bigoted and racist views.”