General Election Review

Matt Maloney – Government Strategy Associates

 Not all of the election results are final but here is a rundown of what is known 24 hours after the polls closed.

It is now safe to watch the news and check your mailbox without being inundated with ads of political extremism, abortion, crime and the economy.  Political arguments should simmer down – at least until families gather for the holidays.

Midterm elections typically see the party of the sitting president face significant headwinds and lose a significant number of congressional seats. After their first two years, President Clinton lost 53 seats, Obama lost 63 seats and Trump lost 40 seats for their party. The wave against the party in the White House also impacts or state and local races. President Biden’s approval ratings were perceived to be a drag on his entire party’s ticket.

Contrary to election eve speculation, there was no “red wave” nationally. In fact, Illinois Democrats enjoyed a big night with success up and down the ticket. Republicans struggled as the Democratic party in Illinois used gerrymandered maps, a huge money advantage and “hand-picked” opponents to bring them historic victories.

Governor’s Race

Governor Pritzker secured a second term with a double-digit victory over State Senator Darren Bailey. Governor Pritzker defined Bailey as extreme for Illinois highlighting his positions on abortion and gun rights.

Pritzker and the Democratic Governors’ Association spent millions in ads promoting Bailey in the Republican primary. The strategy was that Bailey’s positions could appeal to the GOP primary voter but were less aligned with the majority of general election voters.

In the last two years, Governor Pritzker has spent over $150 million on his and other Democrats campaigns. This spending advantage enabled the Governor to blanket the airwaves define his GOP rival before Sen. Bailey could get his message to voters. By contrast, Bailey didn’t have the funding to air his first general election campaign ads until a month before the election.

Statewide Offices

The Democrats swept all statewide constitutional offices during this election cycle.  They held a significant financial advantage in their races as well as name identification with four of the five campaigns containing incumbents.

In the race to replace long time Secretary of State Jesse White, former Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias defeated State Representative Dan Brady. Attorney General Kwame Raoul defeated downstate attorney Tom DeVore earning a second term. Treasurer Mike Frerichs gets a third term after he defeated State Representative Tom Demmer. Incumbent Comptroller Susanna Mendoza, as expected, bested the GOP’s Shannon Teresi by 15 points.

State House

Legislative maps and spending advantages help Democrats retain supermajorities in House and Senate.

In the House of Representatives, Democrats appear to gain of 4 seats which would bring their super majority up to 77 seats from the current 73. The Democrats have defeated a few incumbents along with winning several open seats.

Democrat Nabeela Syed defeated incumbent Republican Rep. Chris Bos in the new 51st House District in southwest and central Lake County. Democrat Matt Hanson defeated Republican Keith Wheeler in the newly drawn 83rd House District in the Kane County area. Republicans look to pick up one seat as Democrat incumbent LaToya Greenwood of East St. Louis is currently behind Republican Kevin Schmidt in her reelection bid.

Following the election, Jim Durkin announced this morning that he will not seek another term as the House GOP Leader. He has served in that role since 2013. He served in the General Assembly from 1995 to 2002 and 2006 to present. Six of eleven members of his leadership team either lost elections or sought other offices and will not be returning.

State Senate

The Senate Republicans show a net gain on election day. This is little consolation as the Democrats still maintain a supermajority.

Senator Kris Tharp appears to have lost to Republican Erica Conway Harris in the Metro East. Senator Mike Hastings is trailing Republican Patrick Sheehan in the Southwest suburban district. The margin for that race is under 100 votes with many mail-in votes yet to be counted.

The Springfield area was the site of the most expensive legislative race in the state where Democrat Senator Doris Turner defeated Rep. Sandy Hamilton. The candidates spent over $5 million in funds during the race, most of which went toward ads brutally attacking each other. (That total seems like a lot of money for a job that pays $70,000.)

Illinois Supreme Court

Democratic candidates Elizabeth Rochford and Mary Kay O’Brien both won their races giving their party a 5 to 2 advantage on the court. Outside groups put more than $11 million into the races. Democrats characterized the races as a referendum on abortion. As a result of the election, now a majority of justices on the Court will be women.

Illinois Congressional Delegation

U.S. Senate

Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth fended off a challenge from Republican Kathy Salvi to earn another six-year term. Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran who lost both legs when her helicopter was shot down in 2004, has served in Congress for nearly a decade. Control of either chamber of Congress is still unknown at this time.

U.S. Representatives

Illinois lost one Congressional seat during the remap process due to national shifts in population. Using Congressional maps to their advantage, the Illinois Democratic congressional delegation safely held all its incumbents, added Chicagoans Delia Ramirez and Jonathon Jackson and added new colleagues in two hotly contested downstate elections.

Democrat candidate Nikki Budzinski won a tight congressional race against Regan Deering. The newly drawn 13th District encompasses Champaign shifting southwest through Decatur and Springfield into East St. Louis.

Budzinski is a former senior adviser to Gov. J.B. Pritzker on labor issues and former chief of staff for President Joe Biden’s office of management and budget. She has also worked as a labor union advocate for firefighters, food service employees and other workers.

In the 17th Congressional District, former TV weatherman Eric Sorensen declared victory over Republican Esther Joy King. This district includes the Quad Cities area as well as parts of Bloomington, Normal, Peoria and Rockford. The district was previously represented by Cheri Bustos.

Sorensen campaigned promising to fight for lower prescription drug costs, protecting abortion rights and promoting Illinois’ electric vehicle production to improve the economy.

Amendment 1 Worker’s Rights Amendment

Votes are still being counted for Amendment 1, the Worker’s Rights Amendment. The proposed Illinois amendment would guarantee not only the right to organize for the most common elements of collective bargaining, like wages, hours and working conditions, but also for “economic welfare and safety at work.” The amendment is close to passage and proponents believe when all votes are tallied, they will get enough votes to add this to the constitution.

Next Steps for Illinois Lawmakers

With the campaign season in the rearview mirror, Illinois lawmakers can hopefully set about once again doing the work of the people.

The challenges facing the state did not go away during the campaign. Lawmakers hope to address gun safety, reproductive rights, public safety and of course budget issues and the economy. Workforce recruitment and retention across most sectors remain a major concern. Mental health must continue to be a priority.

Late fall hosts Veto session, early January will contain a “lame duck” session and the new General Assembly will be sworn in on January 11th.

Community Mental Health Referendums

 Several communities placed referendums on the ballot asking voters if they would support a property tax levies for community mental health services in each of those townships for individuals with developmental, disability, or substance abuse disorders. While the vote totals are not final the following townships appeared to have passed referendums to create community mental health boards – Schaumburg, Wheeling, Addison, Lisle, Naperville, Winfield and Vernon Townships as well as Will County.