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Retired judge Joe McGraw to face freshman Democrat Eric Sorensen in November IL-17 contest

Republican 17th District candidate Joe McGraw speaks during a news conference Wednesday near the Peoria County Courthouse square.
Joe Deacon
Retired circuit court judge Joe McGraw of Rockford announces his Republican bid for Illinois' 17th Congressional District seat during a news conference Wednesday near the Peoria County Courthouse square.

Republican Joe McGraw will face freshman Democratic congressman Eric Sorensen in the 17th Congressional District in November.

McGraw, a retired judge from Rockford, was the odds-on favorite over Henry County farmer Scott Crowl. McGraw far outraised Crowl. He had $226,164 cash on hand at the end of February, compared to the $7,343 Crowl had left in his mostly self-funded campaign account, according to the Federal Election Commission.

McGraw also secured the backing of the Republican establishment. Galesburg businessman Ray Estrada dropped his campaign bid and ultimately supported McGraw.

McGraw said he appreciates the voter support in the primary, but his campaign continues tomorrow in the leadup to November.

"Eric Sorensen has failed. He’s voted in lockstep with Joe Biden the entire time he has been in office,” McGraw said in a statement. “Instead of fighting for the values of the 17th District, Sorensen has teamed up with the D.C. special interests and abandoned Illinoisans back home."

Sorensen is a former TV meteorologist from the Quad Cities who ran unopposed in the primary. He defeated Republican Esther Joy King by a 52-48 margin in 2022. The Democrat has accumulated a war chest of more than $1.7 million ahead of this November's general election.

"Since beginning my first term, I’ve seen the impact that working across the aisle can have on our communities. From lowering costs and bringing tax dollars back home, to supporting our police and infrastructure, we’ve made huge progress on the issues that matter most to middle-class families," Sorensen said in a prepared statement. "I look forward to bringing more progress home and again earning the support of the people of Illinois’ 17th District in November.”

The district includes parts of Peoria, the Quad Cities, Canton, Galesburg, Macomb, Rockford, and Bloomington-Normal.

The swing district twice voted for both Republican Donald Trump and Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos. The 17th now favors Democrats more after the Democrats 2021 remap added in left-leaning parts of McLean County and subtracted much of the rural part of west-central Illinois that's trended increasingly Republican in recent years.

Sabato's Crystal Ball currently rates this race "Lean Democratic." So does the Cook Political Report, another well-regarded prognosticator. But the Cook Political Report has also called the 17th the only "truly competitive seat in the state."

Republicans hold a narrow 219-213 House majority.

Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.