Quinn wins, Republican race unsettled

By SpencerRoush

After a few surprises, a couple of close calls and low voter turnout for the Illinois primaries, some candidates are looking ahead to November, while others may have to wait several weeks to know if they should continue on the campaign trail.

On Feb. 2, approximately 26 percent of Illinois’ registered voters went to the polls. There are a few reasons why analysts are saying the voter turnout was lower than previous years, including “uninspiring candidates,” the date change from March to February and Illinoisans who declined to vote because they are discouraged by the state’s political system.

After asking Columbia students if they had voted in the Illinois primaries, several students replied “Vote for what?” or with just a simple “No.” Research shows younger age groups are increasingly underrepresented in the polls because of their disinterest in politics.

Evan McKenzie, associate professor of Political Science at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said young people probably don’t vote because they don’t see how the election of a state representative or governor applies to them.

“As [young people] get older, they have more of a stake in society,” McKenzie said. “They get married, they have kids and they have jobs that are affected by this. Then they begin to understand why things like taxation matters to them.”

Edtra Flowers, a student at DePaul University and South Side resident, said she is graduating soon and about to join the “real world” and sees how the election of a new Cook County Board president could affect her finances and taxation.

“I didn’t vote for Todd Stroger,” Flowers said. “I just don’t think he was doing a good job. I think it’s about time to let someone else take the reins.”

After walking into the Spertus Institute, 610 S. Michigan Ave., about 30 minutes before the polls closed, Flowers cast her ballot for each major office.

“This is our city,” Flowers added. “We really need to take initiative and focus on the people who can make a difference in Chicago.”

Fourth ward Alderman Toni Preckwinkle claimed victory in the Democratic Cook County Board president race and Roger Keats won the Republican nomination. Incumbent Todd Stroger ended up in last place in the Democratic election after being scrutinized for raising taxes.

According to McKenzie, voters may be discouraged this year because of the political corruption and may not know who or what to vote for. It was not just the young people who decided not to vote in the primaries.

“This year, people in Illinois have got to be so completely fed up with this government. They are disgusted with the entire political class,” McKenzie said. “That’s what I think. I think they’re beginning to get the sense that we have one of the most incompetent state governments in the entire United States. Everyone’s an insider and they know it.”

The Governor’s race

The Democrats’ race to the governor’s mansion was a close call, with only a few thousand votes separating incumbent Pat Quinn and Comptroller Dan Hynes. Quinn claimed victory, yet it took Hynes two days to concede.

Quinn announced that he had won and that “the election was a close election, but in my book, one more than the other guy is a landslide.”

The final results left both Hynes and Quinn with a 50 percent split.

“This has been a nail-biter of a campaign,” said Tom Quinn, the governor’s brother. “It’s fair to say that we’re cautiously optimistic.”

Just past midnight, after the majority of the votes were tallied, many black elected officials stood on stage with Quinn, showing their support after Hynes’ attack advertisement.

When Hynes was several points behind Quinn, who was leading the polls prior to the election, Hynes released a controversial advertisement with a recording of the late Mayor Harold Washington speaking poorly of Quinn.

William Bike, vice president of ANB Communications, a political consulting and communications firm, said the advertisement was probably being used to turn the black votes away from Quinn. However, he said it would likely have the reverse affect.

“[Voters] don’t like the candidate who is in the negative campaign, and they also don’t like the candidate who did the negative campaigning,” McKenzie said.

He also said negative advertising and the fact that people weren’t excited about the candidates and their policies likely affected both the Republican and Democratic races.

“I think people know who Quinn is, but he just does not excite people,” McKenzie said. “He’s not charismatic. He’s not popular. Hynes is not a well-known person either. So there’s not a favorite in either of these races.”

McKenzie said the Republican race experienced similar results because after months of campaigning and six candidates competing against one another, there still wasn’t anyone who stepped out as front-runner because none of them were really well-known.

It may take weeks or even months to determine the Republican gubernatorial candidate for the general election.

The lack of a front-runner resulted in an approximate 400 votes separating the first and second place candidates in the primaries. Leading is Bill Brady with Kirk Dillard trailing close behind. Dillard announced that he is waiting confidently for all the remaining ballots to be counted.

Andy McKenna, who is a self-proclaimed “outsider,” was considered the leader in polls before the election. He received third place and congratulated Brady on Feb. 5.

“McKenna was pretending to be an outsider, but that’s phony,” McKenzie said. “He was the chair of the state Republican Party. How can he be an outsider? They look at all of this and they become very cynical about the politicians who run for office in this state.”

Prior to the election, Dillard and McKenna exchanged negative advertisements concerning political controversies. Dillard pursued the accusation that McKenna used state Republican resources for a poll that included potential candidates and included his own name, when he was still the GOP chairman.

McKenna released his own negative advertisement that accused Dillard of wanting to raise taxes and supporting President Barack Obama.

McKenzie said the negative campaigning probably hurt both McKenna and Dillard and helped Brady take the lead. He added that attack advertisements also cause low voter turnout.

McKenzie said neither the Democrats nor the Republicans had a “favorite” candidate, which is shown in voting results, creating a close race between both parties.

“[Voters] look around and think, ‘What do you vote for? There are just a lot of things to vote against,’” McKenzie added. “I think many people regarded the whole choice in both parties as incredibly uninspiring.”

The race for Senate

The results of the Democratic and Republican Senatorial races were decided quickly and without any close calls. Congressman Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) was nominated to run for Senate in the general election after beating candidate Patrick Hughes 57 to 19 percent. Kirk had been leading the polls months before the election.

“I think that Kirk has a very solid resume and he’s a moderate Republican,” McKenzie said. “Unless the conservative Republicans do their best to sink his ship, I think he’s going to run a very strong campaign.”

After Kirk announced his victory, David Hoffman, a Democratic candidate who ran for Senate, conceded to State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias. Hoffman offered his support to Giannoulias.

Shortly after Hoffman’s concession, Giannoulias took the stage at his own post-election party to announce his nomination to run against Kirk in November. It took no time at all for Giannoulias to switch gears from the primaries to the general election against a Republican contender.

Giannoulias gave a speech thanking his campaign and family members and continued to speak about job creation.

Kirk has also started his general election campaigning and questioned the controversy circling around Giannoulias’ family-owned Broadway Bank.

“When you look at Giannoulias, the government program he’s most closely associated with is a failure,” McKenzie said. “The bank that he based his reputation [on] is in danger of going under, [which] is his family’s bank.”

According to McKenzie, Kirk has a thicker resume and will be on the attack because he said, “Giannoulias has a lot to answer for.”

He added that Giannoulias is currently the state treasurer and the state of Illinois is experiencing a major budget deficit.

“[Giannoulias] is an incumbent office holder in the current horrifically inept state government,” McKenzie said.

However, Giannoulias has already been congratulated by the White House and will get support from the Democratic Party to help maintain Obama’s former Senate seat.

The next election will be held on Nov. 2. To find updates on the Republican Gubernatorial nominee, follow The Chronicle on Twitter@ccchronicle.