Race To Watch: Illinois

There's an interesting primary coming up next week, for those who share my fascination with the declining number of elected women Republicans. As I have written before, this year will be critical in whether that trend reverses or solidifies. That's because a lot of new Republicans will be elected this year (regardless of whether it's a 'wave' election cycle or not -- although obviously more if it is), providing a brief window to get some women into office.

And, as I blogged a couple months ago, the early signs are not good: there are not a whole lot of women running as Republicans for congress, Senate, or governor, particularly in winnable races -- and most of those who are running must get through tough primaries.

Next Tuesday, Illinois holds its ridiculously-early primaries. There is a GOP woman running for Senate, but she's an also-ran way, way behind likely primary winner Mark Kirk. There are a few Republican women running for US House, all but one in seemingly hopeless races against safe Democratic incumbents.

But in the 10th district, state rep Elizabeth Coulson has a great shot at winning the House seat that Kirk is vacating. The race is considered a toss-up; it's generally Democratic-leaning, but Kirk, a moderate Republican, has been very popular. Coulson appeared to be the party choice to be the nominee, but conservatives have been painting her as a liberal. (She got contributions from the SEIU!!!) Momentum seems to be moving to businessman Robert Dold (he owns a pest-extermination business -- do you really want to invite comparison with Tom DeLay?), who has recently picked up some key endorsements -- including Dan Lugar, the Tribune, and Dold's former boss Dan Quayle.

That makes this a broader test of the practical/ideological divide in the GOP, which has been killing the party for a few years (as I have written plenty about), and will help determine how much of a comeback the party can make this year.

But it also is a test of whether the GOP can get women elected anymore. A Coulson loss next week would make an already short list of contenders even shorter.

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