Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias votes at the Cedar St. Condominium Association in Chicago.
As the polling places shake out their final ballots, Ward Room takes a look at who came up aces in Illinois last night ... and who folded.
At the beginning of the year, Giannoulias was considered a fatally flawed candidate who would lose in a landslide to Mark Kirk. There was even talk that the White House would force him to step down from the ticket. But Giannoulias found Kirk’s weak spot -- exaggerating his military service -- and fought his way back into the race. He brought Obama to Chicago several times, raising money and enthusiasm for other Democratic candidates. Last night, he lost by only two points and gave a concession speech that even Republicans called “classy.” At 34, he still has a future in Illinois politics.
The Madigan Family
Of course, the Madigans always win. Now that Mayor Daley is retiring, they’re the first family of Illinois politics. Mike held on to his speakership, and daughter Lisa is free to run for mayor next year or governor in four years, when voters will be even sicker of Pat Quinn than they are now.
The Republicans won his old Senate seat and took over the House of Representatives. But the new speaker of the House, John Boehner, is exactly what Obama needs: a Republican foil in Washington. The GOP will now have to share the responsibility for the country’s problems, and Obama can present himself as the only politician who can stop the Tea Party from taking over America. Also, Obama got Pat Quinn re-elected. Thanks to his Hyde Park rally, and his calls to black radio stations, turnout on the South Side was higher than in 2006. He still has some juice in his hometown.
Main Street Republicans
The Republican Party probably cost itself control of the Senate by nominating wacky candidates in Delaware, Nevada and Connecticut. They didn’t make that mistake in Illinois. Mark Kirk is a pro-choice Republican with a strong environmental record. Kirk’s successor in Congress, Bob Dold, went out of his way to assure voters he supported abortion. Illinois’s Republicans reclaimed their traditional suburban breeding grounds by defeating Reps. Bill Foster, Phil Hare and Debbie Halvorson. And they’re back in state government, with victories by treasurer candidate Dan Rutherford and comptroller candidate Judy Baar Topinka, who both represent the tradition of Charles Percy, Jim Thompson and Jim Edgar.
Judy Baar Topinka
Welcome back, Judy! The comptroller’s office is your consolation prize for losing to a crook in 2006. We had to make it up to you.
“Obama Lite” could be forgiven for losing two straight congressional races to Mark Kirk. But his narrow defeat by Bob Dold makes him a three-time loser who appears unable to prevail in the North Shore’s 10th District. In any other years, Seals would have beaten Dold. But now there won’t be another year for Seals.
Claypool enjoyed a successful career representing the North Side of Chicago on the Cook County Board. He should have stayed in that job, because his appeal does not travel beyond his home base. After losing a primary election to John Stroger in 2006, after Stroger suffered a stroke, Claypool lost the county assessor’s race to Joe Berrios by an even wider margin. Chicago’s journalistic establishment -- which lives in Claypool’s neighborhood -- insisted that Berrios was a hack whose election would mean the death of good government in Cook County. Voters didn’t care.
Bill Brady framed his campaign as a battle between the hardworking, overtaxed residents of Downstate Illinois and the “Chicago Machine.” Brady won over 60 percent of the vote Downstate. Pat Quinn won four counties: St. Clair, Jackson, Alexander and Cook. Now that the suburbs have turned Democratic, Cook County is a monolith that can carry a Democratic candidate all by itself. Brady made a fatal error by demonizing Chicago. As Mark Brown put it in the Sun-Times, Downstaters “resent our politicians who have dominated state politics, now exemplified by President Obama, whose last-minute campaign appeal to Chicago voters succeeded in bringing out city voters in greater numbers than anticipated.” But they don’t have enough votes to elect politicians who embody that resentment.
The Illinois Tea Party Patriots
Last night’s big Republican winner, Mark Kirk, shunned the Tea Party. Last night’s big Republican loser, Bill Brady, attended Tea Party rallies all over the state. Joe Walsh’s race for Congress against Melissa Bean is still undecided, but that would be the Tea Party’s biggest victory.