Carol Felsenthal
On politics

Illinois Primary: Some Takeaways from Voting Day

Illinois had its primary yesterday, and, in an embarrassment to the state and its politicians, not too many voters showed up—24 percent in the lowest turnout in 70 years in a presidential primary. But for people like me, it was feast of important races. Here, some thoughts as I followed the races well into the evening…

Illinois had its primary yesterday, and, in an embarrassment to the state and its politicians, not too many voters showed up: 24 percent in the lowest turnout in 70 years in a presidential primary. But for people like me, it was feast of important races. Really important—as in, just to take one example, will the U.S. House stay in Republican hands? Here are some thoughts as I followed the races well into the evening.

+ The robo calls and TV ads go quiet for awhile, but the national spotlight will return to Illinois, not on the presidential level—Obama will easily win here—but on two congressional races. Watch for a torrent of outside money in the 8th congressional district to Democrat Tammy Duckworth, the injured Iraq war veteran, and to her opponent, the outspoken cable TV and Tea Party favorite Joe Walsh. This will be a rough one for Walsh, who must have been praying for a win by Duckworth’s opponent, Raja Krishnamoorthi. No one is more patriotic than Duckworth, who last night talked about how much she loves this country and has the titanium legs to prove it.

+ Same deal in the 10th, where Republican Bob Dold likely was hoping for a win by 25-year-old organizer Ilya Sheyman, but instead will face 50-year-old businessman and staunch Israel supporter Brad Schneider.  He will make it much more difficult for the GOP to hold the seat that belonged for five terms to moderate Republican Mark Kirk. (In the 1970s the 10th District was represented by liberal icon Abner Mikva.)  My prediction: The Democrats take both seats, easily in the 8th, more closely in the 10th.

+ Alderman Rick Muñoz had some heavyweight endorsements (Toni Preckwinkle, the Chicago Tribune, for example), and Dorothy Brown had humiliatingly negative press—about contributions from vendors, from employees, including the infamous “jeans day” payments to Brown, and failure to bring the sprawling office into the digital age. But the race for clerk of the Cook County Circuit Court, wasn’t even close. Brown humiliated Munoz 67 to 33 percent. And so Brown, who had tried twice to move up and out—losing races for Cook County Board President and Chicago Mayor—gets a 4th term. Muñoz told me last November that he was expecting an endorsement from Rahm Emanuel and that the two had become texting buddies. Rahm again showed his smart political instincts and did not endorse.

+ Personal lapses, ethics investigations, even criminal indictments don’t seem to matter much to voters. Cases in point: Jesse Jackson Jr., in a newly drawn congressional district, decimated his opponent, former Rep. Debbie Halvorson, by a margin of 71 to 29—despite the scandal of his mistress, a D.C. restaurant hostess, and the ongoing congressional ethics investigation of alleged attempts to buy Obama’s senate seat from Rod Blagojevich. State Rep. Derrick Smith won in a landslide although U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald indicted him last week on charges of accepting a $7,000 bribe. There are even tapes of Smith, some of the contents of which have been made public, and he still won by approximately 44 percent.

+ Both barely-out-of-college progressive candidates lost: In the 10th District, 25-year-old community organizer and Moveon.org veteran Ilya Sheyman, endorsed by Howard Dean, lost to the aforementioned Brad Schneider by eight points. In a much closer—and in some ways, more interesting—race for the 39th District state rep seat, Will Guzzardi, a 2009 Brown University graduate and former Huffington Post Chicago writer who ran his campaign like the community activist he is, apparently lost by 111 votes (out of approximately 7,851 cast), to Toni Berrios, the machine-backed five-term incumbent (and daughter of Assessor Joe Berrios). Guzzardi could potentially contest the results—late this afternoon, he called the race “too close to call” (updated at 4:51 p.m.)—or stay put in his Logan Square neighborhood, continue to work in the community, and try again. A loss is a loss, but his is one of the only races in which a loss is also a win.

+ There’s news out today that Jeb Bush has endorsed Romney—certainly connected to his big win here in Illinois. Well, we have another moderate Republican former governor right here in Illinois—Jim Edgar—and he has yet to endorse Romney. Why should he? He is known not to want a public role. And then there’s moderate former Illinois Governor Jim Thompson, who has endorsed Mitt. Thompson’s boyhood ambitions to be president have been thwarted, and he’s unlikely to make even the long list of Romney VP choices. Then again, there are those cabinet positions. I could imagine the former Illinois gov, who turns 77 in May, liking one of those spots—attorney general?—as a capstone to his career. 

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