Sorensen builds big cash lead in 17th Congressional race

By Bill Dwyer For Chronicle Media

Eric Sorensen

Less than six months out from the general election, freshman incumbent Eric Sorensen has built a sizable cash lead over challenger Joe McGraw in the 17th District Congressional race.

The contest is the only Illinois Congressional race not listed as either solid Democratic or solid Republican, and is expected to be Illinois’ only competitive Congressional race this election cycle.
The Cook Political Report lists the 17th District as “Leans Democrat,” between “Likely Democrat” and “Toss Up Democrat.” Sabado’s Crystal Ball also has the 17th leaning Democratic, as does Inside Elections with Nathan Gonzales.
Federal Election Commission records show Sorensen having raised more than $2.8 million this election cycle, while McGraw has raised $525,000. As of six weeks ago, McGraw had $325,000 on hand, while Sorensen had nearly seven times that amount, $2.15 million.
While substantial, Sorensen’s big cash advantage may not hold up for long, as McGraw has attracted the attention and support of national GOP political fundraising organizations. In April, McGraw was one of 20 GOP congressional candidates endorsed by The Congressional Leadership Fund, a top Republican Super PAC. As such, he can expect to receive “direct financial support” from its Trailblazers Fund.
However, Sorensen, though only a freshman, is already well seasoned, having won a crowded six-person Democratic primary in 2022, then a close race against a better-funded opponent, Republican Esther Joy King, of East Moline. Sorensen won with 51.76 percent of the vote despite being out-raised $3.1 million to $5.1 million.
Sorensen appears to be picking up from his 2022 pace. The $2.8 million he’s raised so far is nearly what he collected during his entire 2022 campaign. That past performance bodes well for his fundraising going into the fall; in the third quarter of his 2022 campaign, Sorenson took in $1.5 million and expended $1.3 million.
McGraw, meanwhile, is not waiting for any six- or seven-figure contributions from national GOP

Joe McGraw

sources. In a recent email fundraiser blast, McGraw solicited as little as $3.75 for gas money, saying he’s “been pounding the pavement all across our district and I need your help. Each stop costs money to fuel up our tank, feed our volunteers, and so much more.”

In 2022, there was a clear pattern of counties in the district with larger cities and urban areas going Democratic and less-populated rural counties going Republican. The district stretches from Rockford in the north to several miles south of Bloomington-Normal, and includes Peoria and the Illinois side of the Quad Cities region, comprised of Rock Island, Moline, and East Moline.
Sorensen won all the larger counties with significant urban areas by more than 5,000 votes, including Winnebago (57.5 percent to 42.5 percent)  McLean (59.7 to 40.3) Peoria (57.3 to 42.7) and Rock Island (55.3 to 44.7).
Republican Esther Joy King won Knox County by 1,300 votes (54 to 46 percent), and won smaller, more rural counties, including Whiteside, Warren, Tazewell, Stephenson, Carroll, Fulton, Henry, Mercer and McDonough.
In 2024, Sorensen may not win as big in Winnebago, where he was born and raised. While McGraw was born and raised in Kankakee, he has lived and worked in Rockford for more than 20 years.
While McGraw has attacked purported weakness in Sorensen’s and the Democrat’s governing record, Sorenson, as the incumbent, can crow about purported accomplishments, as he did in a March announcement regarding $130 million returned in the district as part of the Community Project Funding process, which allows members of Congress to direct funding for critical local initiatives.