Your Guide to Twenty Elections to Watch on March 19

Illinois and Ohio head to the polls, with elections for prosecutor, judge, and Congress headlining the day.
March 13, 2024
Chicago is home to many of the elections that are headlining March 19. (Photo from Chicago Board of Elections/Facebook)

When the Midwest’s two most populous states, Ohio and Illinois, hold all of their primaries on Tuesday, a large share of their races will be uncontested. Still, there are plenty of hotspots that may shake up state politics: Bolts has identified 20 races to watch, and why they matter.

On the menu? Several members of Congress face primaries from their left or right, and Ohio Republicans are choosing their nominee against Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown.

Further down the ballot, Chicago, Cleveland, and Columbus are voting for their next prosecutor. Chicago will also decide on new funds for homelessness services. Ohio will finalize the line-up of November’s high-stakes judicial races, which may tip control of its supreme court. 

Also keep an eye on special elections in Kentucky and Minnesota. And three other states hold presidential primaries, though Joe Biden and Donald Trump locked in their parties’ nomination earlier this week.

Be sure to return to this page on election night and subsequent days to check the results. And note that this guide is not exhaustive; it is Bolts’ selection of important races to monitor.

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Jump to: U.S. Senate, U.S. House, Presidential primaries
Ohio (GOP primary)

Who will the GOP put up against one of its top targets this fall, Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown? Businessman Bernie Moreno snagged Donald Trump’s coveted endorsement over two elected officials, Secretary of State Frank LaRose and state Senator Matt Dolan in what’s been a very negative and expensive campaign. LaRose, the state’s chief elections official, has dialed up Trumpian rhetoric about fraud in recent years.

U.S. House

IL-04 (Dem primary)

Chuy Garcia, a progressive incumbent, faces Raymond Lopez, a member of the Chicago city council whom the South Side Weekly dubbed a “conservative firebrand” due to his positions like making local policies toward migrants more restrictive.
IL-07 (Dem primary)

Danny Davis, who has been in Congress since 1996, survived by just seven percentage points two years ago against Kina Collins, a community organizer who ran to his left. Collins is challenging him again, but this time so are a lot of other Democrats, including Melissa Conyears-Ervin, the Chicago treasurer who secured the teacher union’s endorsement but faces an ethics scandal.
IL-12 (GOP primary)

When Darren Bailey won the GOP nomination for Illinois governor in 2022, it doomed his party in the general election given his far-right views on abortion and other issues. Now Bailey is challenging GOP incumbent Mike Bost in a downstate red seat; despite a record including overturning the results of the 2020 election, Bost is still finding himself outflanked on his right.
OH-06 (GOP primary)

In the primary to replace U.S. Representative Bobby Johnson, a Republican who resigned this year, state lawmaker Reggie Stoltzfus is touting himself as a staunch conservative; another state lawmaker, Michael Rulli, has drawn support from a more moderate wing. Earlier this year, though, both men voted to override their GOP governor’s veto of a ban on gender-affirming care.
OH-09 (GOP primary)

After the GOP redrew Ohio’s congressional map to weaken Democratic incumbent Marcy Kaptur, far-right candidate J.R. Majewski won the party’s nomination in 2022 and sank the party’s chances. Majewski was running again this year, alarming GOP operatives, but he withdrew from the race in late February in confusing circumstances, leaving the nomination open for the taking.
Derek Merrin

Presidential primaries

Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Ohio

In a different world, Florida’s presidential primary on March 19 could have been the high point of the rivalry between the state’s most famous resident, Donald Trump, and its governor, Ron DeSantis. Instead, Trump locked in the GOP nomination, as did Joe Biden with the Democratic nomination, on March 12.

Floridians, plus voters in four other states are still called to select presidential candidates on March 19, though. Florida is also hosting some municipal races (and will hold other down-ballot primaries later this year).


Jump to: Supreme Courts, Legislative Primaries, Legislative specials
Illinois, first district (Dem primary)

Justice Joy Cunningham was appointed in late 2022 to this seat that covers Cook County. She now faces voters for the first time. Her challenger Jesse Reyes, a lower-court judge, has focused on the need for a Latinx justice on the court; Injustice Watch reports this has triggered broader debates among local politicians on the role of representation in government.
Ohio (Dem primary)

Ohio Democrats have a plausible but difficult path to flipping their supreme court, and it requires them to flip this open seat. Voters will choose one of two Democratic lower-court judges, Lisa Forbes and former public defender Terri Jamison, to move on to a general election. (The winner will face Dan Hawkins, another lower court judge unopposed in the GOP primary.)

Legislative primaries

Illinois, HD-20 (Democratic primary)

Natalie Toro, appointed to the state Senate last year to fill a vacancy, faces a challenge from her left by Graciela Guzmán, an organizer for the Chicago Teachers Union.
Ohio state House (GOP primaries)

Last year, 22 GOP lawmakers joined Democrats to elect Republican Jason Stephens as Speaker against the wishes of most of their party; in response, the state GOP adopted a resolution censuring them. GOP lawmakers still united on conservative legislation, but overall did a lot less than usual. Now, many of the censured Republicans—12, to be exact—face primary challengers. Bolts will track how many lose.
Four of them lost.

Legislative special elections

Kentucky’s HD24 and Minnesota’s HD27B

March 19 will see two contested general elections for legislative seats, each a special election to fill a vacancy. One for a seat in the Kentucky House and the other for a seat in the Minnesota House. Both are in staunchly GOP areas, but watch the margins as an indicator of parties’ strength.


Jump to: Prosecutors, Judges, County Leaders, Ballot measures
IL | Cook County (Dem primary)

State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, one of the more visible faces of the reform prosecutor movement, is retiring after two terms, and Democrats must choose between Clayton Harris III and Eileen O’Neill Burke to succeed her. O’Neill Burke has been a lot more critical of Foxx, promising to roll back some of her policies and drawing support from the head of the police union. Bolts reports that the results of the race will shape the future of bail reform; the next prosecutor will also inherit a conviction integrity unit beset by scandal, Bolts reports.
O’Neill Burke
OH | Franklin County (Dem primary)

With Columbus’ prosecutor retiring, three Democrats are running to replace him. They would each be Franklin County’s first Black prosecuting attorney, with slightly different emphases in how they talk of issues like youth prosecutions or policing. The winner will be favored in the general election.
Sheyla Favor
OH | Cuyahoga County (Dem primary)

In an office with a long trail of wrongful convictions and death sentences, Cleveland’s prosecutor Michael O’Malley faces a challenge from his left in former public defender and law professor Matthew Ahn, who is promising reforms like not seeking the death penalty and reducing the adult prosecution of minors.
Note: All Illinois and Ohio counties elect their prosecutor this year. But Cook, Cuyahoga, and Franklin are the three only counties above 100,000 residents (out of 47 counties across both states) that are holding a contested primary for prosecutor on March 19!

Local judges

IL | Circuit court judge, Cook County’s 20th subcircuit (Dem primary)

In an election in part of Chicago’s North Side, Injustice Watch reports on John Poulos, a former police officer with a long track record of dishonesty who is running for a judgeship.
Nadine Wichern
IL | Circuit court judge, Cook County’s 20th subcircuit (Dem primary)

According to the invaluable guide published by Injustice Watch to all Cook County judicial elections, this seat in Chicago’s Northwest Side hosts one of this cycle’s few races pitting a current or former public defender against a current or former prosecutor. Candidate Jim Murphy resigned from the prosecutor’s office in 2022 after sternly denouncing the policies of Kim Foxx, Cook County’s reform-minded state’s attorney, and drawing the reprobation of a progressive leader. He’ll face public defender Liam Kelly.

County leaders

IL | Cook County circuit clerk

This is the office that administers one of the nation’s largest court systems, and Mariyana Spyropoulous is challenging incumbent Iris Martinez to lead it. Many local Democratic leaders are backing the challenger: The Sun Times reports the race has come to largely revolve around who is more connected to the party establishment.
IL | Cook County commissioner

Tara Stamps, an organizer with the Chicago Teachers Union, was appointed to replace Brandon Johnson on the county commission when Johnson became mayor last year. She now faces challenger Zerlina Smith-Members who has faulted her for her ties to the CTU and has also criticized other local progressive priorities like a guaranteed income program, WBEZ reports.

Local referendums

IL | Chicago

Pushed by local progressives like Mayor Brandon Johnson, this tax on real estate transactions would help the city of Chicago fund homelessness services. (The measure went through a legal battle over whether the results would count, with an appellate court ruling they should in early March.)