GOP ran wrong candidate, Oberweis says - Bob Susnjara
(FROM THE ARTICLE: Oberweis will discuss the governor’s race and how Illinois’ Republican Party needs to revive itself and break away from controversial figures today at 7 p.m. at the Comfort Inn on Route 83 in Mundelein. He was invited to speak by the Republican Assembly of Lake County.)
Former GOP primary candidate Jim Oberweis says Gov. Rod Blagojevich was ripe for the picking, but the Republicans had the wrong candidate in Tuesday’s election.
Oberweis will discuss the governor’s race and how Illinois’ Republican Party needs to revive itself and break away from controversial figures today at 7 p.m. at the Comfort Inn on Route 83 in Mundelein. He was invited to speak by the Republican Assembly of Lake County.
In the March primary, Oberweis was the runner-up to Judy Baar Topinka for the right to represent the Republicans against Blagojevich. Ron Gidwitz and state Sen. Bill Brady lagged in the GOP derby.
However, Oberweis says, Topinka couldn’t take advantage of Blagojevich’s woes, in part because of her ties to controversial Springfield powerbrokers Robert Kjellander and William Cellini.
Kjellander has acknowledged he received an $809,000 commission on a state bond deal under Blagojevich, which became an issue during the GOP primary campaign for governor. Multiple sources have confirmed for the Daily Herald that Cellini is “Individual A” in a federal investigation involving the governor’s associates.
Topinka came under fire from her primary opponents for failing to request Kjellander’s resignation as the state’s Republican national committeeman following the revelation he collected the $809,000 consulting fee as part of Blagojevich’s $10 billion pension bond deal in 2003.
“We need to work very hard to clean up the corruption and move away from the stalwarts of the Republican Party,” Oberweis said.
Topinka was the only member of the Republican primary field who carried hefty political baggage, he said. Oberweis said that’s why he, Gidwitz or Brady would have been able to topple Blagojevich.
DIERSEN HEADLINE: The Daily Herald, a newspaper that wants Democrats to win, gives advice to the Illinois Republican Party
New challenges for Illinois GOP
As for the defeated Republican Party? What a mess. Tuesday marked the continuation of a startling downward spiral that began four years ago, when the GOP, burdened by the Ryan scandal, took heavy losses. The Republicans’ decline continued two years ago with the Jack Ryan/Alan Keyes debacle and plunged to new depths Tuesday with the party’s failure to win a single statewide office and its loss of state legislative seats that the party had firmly held for decades.
Worse for them, the Republicans have no immediately obvious prospects to rejuvenate the party and lead the ticket next time. Topinka will now step off the stage. Steve Rauschenberger, a budget whiz who once seemed a natural for higher office, has stumbled in two statewide attempts and no longer holds his Senate seat. Tom Cross and Frank Watson are capable legislative leaders who have shown limited interest to date in topping a ticket. Despite Tuesday’s loss, Topinka running mate Joe Birkett probably could run again. So, too, could Bloomington state Sen. Bill Brady, who may have run the most disciplined and consistent campaign last spring for the party’s gubernatorial nomination. The absence of any woman from this list of possibilities may hint at part of the GOP’s problems. The party must figure out how to capture voters’ imagination and draw enough independent voters to win in a state trending heavily Democratic. It won’t be easy, but it’s the task required if Illinois Republicans want to remain relevant.
DIERSEN HEADLINE: Daily Herald hopes Dillard will challenge Watson for GOP Senate leadership position
State Sen. Dillard is not ruling out GOP leadership bid - Eric Krol
Given the GOP’s major suburban losses Tuesday night, state Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale is being looked at as a possible replacement for a Senate Republican leader from downstate.
Dillard, who doubles as DuPage County Republican chairman, did not rule out such a bid, although he claimed he’s not pursuing one at this point.
“I want to hear what went wrong. I have my hands full as the DuPage Republican chairman and the father of a couple of young children and I’m not looking to take on more work. I’m not sitting here planning to have any type of coups,” Dillard said Wednesday.
Under Frank Watson’s stewardship, Senate Republicans lost four suburban seats and one downstate seat Tuesday, a result Dillard called an “electoral debacle.”
The losses gave Democratic Senate President Emil Jones Jr. of Chicago a veto-proof majority. Ironically, the loss of four suburban seats might actually strengthen the position of Watson, a pharmacist from downstate Greenville, because downstate senators will have more influence in choosing a leader.
A Watson spokeswoman did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday.
For a politician who says he’s not mulling “a coup,” Dillard was critical of Tuesday’s showing. Since state senators are in a position to help statewide candidates when they come into town, the losses literally have ramifications into the next decade.
Dillard unsuccessfully tried to become Senate GOP leader in 2002 after James “Pate” Philip of Wood Dale retired rather than serve in the minority.
New challenges for governor - Editorial
Behold the power of a $15 million advertising campaign, accompanied by an opponent’s inability to truly ignite her campaign.
Early returns quickly removed any suspense from the governor’s race Tuesday. The polls no sooner closed then Gov. Rod Blagojevich emerged victorious.
The governor’s relentless, months-long ad campaign depicting Judy Baar Topinka as a George Ryan enabler who would throw the state’s elderly and children under the bus did its job. Topinka’s favorable rating plummeted, and she — a reluctant candidate in the first place — never managed to connect with voters or build a sufficiently strong case for herself.
At the only place that matters, the ballot box, the governor has earned a second term. In his victory speech, the governor advised Illinoisans to: “Strap on your seat belts. Put on your helmets. Get ready to roll. We’ve got a lot more work to do for the people of our state.”
He means well. But before the governor zooms too far down the track, he might ponder how it is that he failed to draw 50 percent of the vote. Many voters, inspired by neither Blagojevich nor Topinka, cast a protest ballot for Rich Whitney, a Green Party candidate who spent nearly two decades as an active member of the Socialist Labor Party. In other words, many voters were willing to resort to just about any alternative to avoid voting for either the governor or Topinka.
Some voters stayed away from the governor because of the shadow cast by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation. Blagojevich has not been implicated. But Fitzgerald’s work here is not done. The governor’s top fundraiser has been indicted, and the prosecutor used unusually strong language in describing the magnitude of hiring fraud allegations — not a good sign for an administration touting its progress in cleaning up the ethical landscape.
Others who did not back the governor object to his financial management. Notice that when the governor says he will provide more help for the “hard-working people of this state” without raising their taxes, he doesn’t say anything about the financial burdens that might befall their children. The governor can well serve residents in a second term by curbing his inclination to create programs now and worry later about how to pay for them. Comptroller Dan Hynes has issued somber assessments of the state’s financial condition; House Speaker Michael J. Madigan has balked at some of the governor’s plans. The influence of such Democrats will now be needed more than ever as the governor weighs in on new benefits he would like to bestow.
DIERSEN HEADLINE: Daily Herald laments Duckworth loss, editorializes about Roskam
New congressman counting his blessings - Marni Pyke
Peter Roskam didn’t anticipate the knock-down, drag-out fight it took to win the 6th Congressional District or the fact he’s now among a minority in the U.S. House.
But after a bruising Election Day for Republicans across the nation, the future congressman is counting his blessings.
“I assumed a rigorous primary with seven or eight people and a sleepy general election,” the Wheaton state senator said. “I never anticipated no primary and a rigorous general election.”
Roskam secured the 6th Congressional District Tuesday by just 2 percentage points against Iraq war hero Tammy Duckworth, a well-financed, well-known Democratic opponent.
In comparison, the popular incumbent, retiring Rep. Henry Hyde, defeated Democrat Christine Cegelis by 12 percentage points in 2004.
Issues such the Iraq war played out locally and nationally this campaign, costing the GOP control of the House. Twenty-nine seats went from Republican to Democrat.
But the 6th District turned out not to be the bellwether.
“I received calls from several Republican members of Congress who said our campaign was the bright spot in a pretty tough evening,” Roskam said.
Asked about the challenge of being a rookie legislator on the wrong side of the majority, Roskam said, “I’ve served in the minority and majority in both the Illinois House and the Senate. You can be an effective advocate for your district in the minority — you just have to roll up your sleeves and reach across the aisle and try and seek common ground.”
Given his druthers, Roskam hopes to serve on committees related to health care and telecommunications
He said he’d rely on senior members of the Illinois delegation such as Republican Reps. Judy Biggert of Hinsdale and Mark Kirk of Highland Park to show him the ropes.
While first-term congressmen in the minority party aren’t likely to be passing substantial legislation, Roskam intends to focus on spending cuts and to “push to make the tax cuts permanent.”
GOP leaders from the 6th District took stock the day after a “nationwide tsunami against Republicans,” as state Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale, county GOP chairman, put it.
DuPage County Chairman Robert Schillerstrom said clearly there are lessons to be learned, but “you have to look at the mood of the country. It was clearly a Democratic year.”
“If someone said to me five years ago, ‘You’ll barely eke out a victory in Henry Hyde’s seat in five years,’ I would have said, ‘Oh, come on, now,’æ” Schillerstrom said.
Both credited Duckworth with being a charismatic candidate with a good organization behind her.
“Unfortunately, he’s got weaknesses,” Dillard said.
“The extremism stuff clearly hurt him; the ads hurt him,” he added referring to commercials attacking Roskam’s opposition to abortions in cases or rape or incest and to an assault weapons ban.
“But Peter’s personable. He went door to door and he worked hard.”
Ultimately, the local get—out-the-vote strategy with phone banking and door-to-door campaigning made the difference, Dillard believes.
And that’s what hurt Democrats, said longtime 6th District resident Jim Wall of Elmhurst.
“It’s a longstanding Republican base that just came out and voted. He’s known as a state senator and had some name recognition going into the race,” Wall said.
“The amazing thing is she came as close as she did in this district where we (don’t) have a single Democratic-elected official in the county,” added Wall, a veteran Democrat who has worked on national and statewide races.
Duckworth supporters who rallied behind her story of triumphing over the loss of both legs after a grenade attack in Iraq were picking up the pieces.
“It broke my heart,” said U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, who helped recruit Duckworth to run.
Organizers believe Republican-sponsored negative ads and phone calls turned the tide in Roskam’s favor.
But they’ll be back.
“There’s no reason based on a 1 or 2 percent race we would turn our back on DuPage County,” Durbin said.
DIERSEN HEADLINE: Daily Herald hopes Hastert resigns and a Democrat wins his seat
What’s next for Hastert, Kane? - Leslie Hague
U.S. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert’s future was still unclear on Wednesday after he announced he would not seek a term as minority leader.
Political watchers noted that leaders seldom stick around for long after moving from a vaunted position to a rank-and-file member.
For his part, Hastert put out a statement saying he would not run for minority leader but would “support our leader to the best of my ability as I return to the full-time task of representing the people of the 14th district.”
Though Republicans noted they hoped Hastert, who has been in Congress for 20 years, would fulfill his two-year term, some said they would understand if he stepped down before it was over.
“There will likely be a change taking place in the district,” said Marc Avelar, a former Kane County precinct committeeman. “The question now is when. Generally, when a Speaker loses his speakership, he won’t run for office again or leaves early.”
Newt Gingrich left both the top Republican post and the House in 1998, although he had won re-election. After Tom DeLay stepped down from his position as majority leader, he decided not to run for re-election earlier this year.
Republican strategist Gary Mack, who previously worked for Jim Edgar, said Hastert might step down early if it meant he could have a bigger role in picking his replacement.
“It’s very easy to understand why a federal official third in line for the presidency wouldn’t want to stick around and become a minion,” he said.
Hastert likely is looking at pension implications and the rules on appointing his successor as he decides specifically when to step down.
In his 2004 autobiography, Hastert wrote of eventually wanting to become an ambassador to Japan.
If a U.S. Representative were to resign more than 180 days before an election, there would be a special election to fill the seat, said State Board of Elections legal counsel Steve Sturm. It would likely be the same situation in the time before he is sworn in for his next term in January, but that’s more of a “gray area,” he said.
“Hopefully we don’t have to think about that,” said Kane County Republican Chairman Dennis Wiggins.
Kane County Board member and chairman of the Dundee Township Republicans, John Noverini said he would be disappointed if Hastert stepped down early.
“He ran, he was elected, so he should finish out his term,” he said.
Several General Assembly members’ names have been bandied around as possible replacements for the seat — whether sooner or later — including state Reps. Tom Cross, Tim Schmitz, Patricia Reid Lindner and state Sen. Chris Lauzen.
Also mentioned were Kane County Board chairman Karen McConnaughay, former state Sen. Steve Rauschenberger and former gubernatorial and U.S. Senate candidate Jim Oberweis.
Others noted if the area leans more Democratic, state Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia would be a possibility for the seat as well.
For the most part, the possible successors remained quiet on Wednesday.
“I have heard that,” McConnaughay said about speculation she might run for the seat. “Denny is our congressman, and until he says differently, there is nothing to think about.”
Lauzen said he wanted Hastert to continue in the position as long as he wanted to, but would like to be considered a candidate when Hastert’s tenure ends.
Though a Republican nominee would likely have Hastert’s monetary and moral support, he or she will still have an uphill battle to match Hastert’s results, Mack said.
“The fact of the matter is, no matter who emerges, it will be difficult for anybody to fill Hastert’s shoes,” he said.
DIERSEN HEADLINE: Daily Herald argues that Emanuel and Durbin will bring more pork to Illinois than Hastert did
Suburbs take hit in losing Hastert - Lisa Smith and John Patterson
After years of trying in vain to block a suburban landfill near Bartlett, suburban opponents had seemingly run out of options back in the spring of 2001. State permits had been issued and a legal battle before the U.S. Supreme Court proved fruitless.
It was then that Republican U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert reached out to an unlikely ally: Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat and chairman of the state's Democratic Party.
Hastert got Madigan's assistance in stalling the project. That bought opponents time to persuade then-Gov. George Ryan to buy the site for use as a state park.
The tale may pale in comparison to the litany of multimillion-dollar ribbon cuttings credited to Hastert's federal clout. But it exemplifies his ability to wield influence behind the scenes. After all, not just any Republican can get Madigan on the phone, let alone win his help.
Now, with his party's control of Congress eclipsed by resurgent Democrats, Hastert announced Wednesday he will not seek a leadership role within the minority Republican ranks, and suddenly the suburbs find themselves without a political sugar daddy.
"It's a huge loss," said Illinois House Republican leader Tom Cross of Oswego. "The list is endless where he's been helpful to us. I don't even think we recognize all the help."
Bringing it home
Hastert has consistently lobbied to keep federal money flowing to the Department of Energy's high-energy physics lab and been a major supporter of Fermilab's quest to secure an International Linear Collider - a complex device that would cost $6 billion to build.
His advice to Fermilab officials: "You worry about the science and let me worry about the politics."
Beyond Fermilab, Hastert's fingerprints are all over projects in his 14th Congressional District. Losing Hastert's clout could mean surrendering millions of federal dollars for everything from roadwork to farmland preservation.
Just three weeks ago, Hastert appeared alongside local officials in St. Charles Township to break ground for the Stearns Road bridge, a $150 million project for which he secured $70.4 million in federal funds.
The funds are part of $1.2 billion earmarked for Illinois roads in the federal government's six-year, $286 billion transportation funding plan approved last year. Also included was $207 million for the Hastert-backed Prairie Parkway through Kane and Kendall counties linking the Reagan Memorial Tollway and Interstate 80.
Hastert got the ball rolling for the Stearns bridge in 1990 when he formed a committee to site possible Fox River bridges. The committee proposed six locations for new bridges. Two have since been erected - the Orchard Road bridge between Yorkville and Oswego and the Sullivan Road bridge in Aurora - thanks to millions of federal dollars secured by Hastert.
"It is a definite setback for the area for him not to be speaker," Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke said.
Hastert's also secured millions in federal funding for Kane County's farmland protection program, which allows agricultural landowners to sell development rights to the county instead of developers. Area agriculture officials fear that will diminish.
And Hastert's influence stretched far beyond his slice of the suburbs.
He's involved in trying to land a multibillion-dollar federal energy project for downstate, and he's pressuring the Bush administration to approve a $1.8 billion hospital assessment tax that state lawmakers are relying on to balance spending.
"He's been so helpful to so many people that I can't even start recounting it," said Dallas Ingemunson, Kendall County Republican chairman and Hastert's political godfather. "He'll be missed by everyone in the state, and not just for bringing home the bacon."
The power void
While acknowledging Hastert's influence will be missed, political observers noted Illinois will not be left without clout.
U.S. Rep Rahm Emanuel, a Chicago Democrat, was the architect of Democratic efforts to gain control of Congress. As such, his political star and influence are rising.
Similarly, Springfield's Dick Durbin will hold the No. 2 post in what is now a Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate.
"Having the speaker be from Illinois was a major asset," said Mike Lawrence, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University. "But I'm reluctant to say we've had a major setback."
DIERSEN HEADLINE: Daily Herald is happy about Democrat victories in the Illinois House and Senate but sad about Republican victories
A rare suburban breed: GOP lawmakers - Eric Krol
Suburban voters put a once-thriving breed on the endangered species list this week: the Republican state lawmaker.
That’s a bit of hyperbole, but only just. Democrats won nearly every hotly contested state Senate and House seat in the suburbs Tuesday night and put two others in play without any effort by party leaders.
Why such a sea change? The answers you hear depend upon whether you’re talking to a Republican or Democrat.
Republican campaign consultant Dan Curry of Wheaton said, “The short answer is they got Bush-whacked. He was the overriding factor in the suburbs.”
Steve Brown, spokesman for Democratic House Speaker Michael J. Madigan of Chicago, blamed it on the GOP message.
“I think it reflects the changing demographics and a rejection of the old, old story-line, ‘Let’s make Chicago or the Democratic leadership from Chicago the boogey man and blindly elect whatever candidate we prop up to run for these offices,’” he said.
Democrats won four suburban state Senate seats, giving Senate President Emil Jones Jr. of Chicago a veto-proof majority. And House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, who settled on defending his majority this fall, picked up the 44th House District seat held by Republican Terry Parke for more than two decades.
The only survivors were Republicans who didn’t have opposition or whose districts remain solidly, if not quite as reliably as in the past, Republican. Things were dicey even on the congressional level. Tenth District GOP Rep. Mark Kirk of Highland Park had quite a scare from Democratic challenger Dan Seals of Wilmette, and 6th District Republican Peter Roskam of Wheaton barely held off nationally hyped Democrat Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates. And Democratic Rep. Melissa Bean won a second term representing the 8th Congressional District.
Hard work was a recurring theme offered as the reason for the big Democratic day by the suburban Democratic victors. In the 22nd Senate District, Democrat Michael Noland, an Elgin attorney, defeated Streamwood Mayor Billie Roth. Two years ago, Noland narrowly lost a state House race to state Rep. Ruth Munson of Elgin after using shoe leather to overcome a lack of party support. This time, he got that support and won.
The same held true in the 42nd Senate District, which includes Aurora. Democratic Kane County Board member Linda Holmes knocked on enough doors to get Jones’ financial help down the stretch. It was enough to defeat Republican Will County Board member Terri Ann Wintermute.
Personal contact also helped Democrat Dan Kotowski of Park Ridge defeat appointed Republican state Sen. Cheryl Axley of Mount Prospect.
“I think any candidate that walks wins. If you’re out there meeting people, there’s such a disconnect with government and politics, if voters get an opportunity to meet a candidate, they can win,” said Patrick Botterman, Kotowski’s campaign manager and the Wheeling Township Democratic committeeman.
Republicans, meanwhile, admitted they had only themselves to blame for losing the Lake County seat long held by state Sen. Adeline Geo-Karis of Zion, who lost in the primary. Democrat Michael Bond of Grayslake used a letter of support from Geo-Karis to help him defeat Republican Suzanne Simpson.
Two other suburban House seats were put in play as competitive by Democrats. In the 46th District, Democrat Joe Vosicky of Elmhurst lost by only 153 votes to Republican Dennis Reboletti despite zero support from the House Democrats. Elmhurst’s Reboletti had ties to retiring former House Speaker Lee A. Daniels, who long has been under federal investigation. In northern Lake County, Grayslake’s Sandy Cole hung on to barely edge out Democrat Sharyn Elman, who didn’t get Madigan’s financial support.
Republicans said they hope to rebound in the 2008 presidential election when they hope for less of a Democratic tide.
“You had a huge, national trend equivalent to a tsunami that came not only through Illinois but the country,” said House Republican leader Tom Cross of Oswego. “A trend that was almost impossible to stop. I’m hoping this is an aberration of an election in the suburban areas.”
DIERSEN HEADLINE: Daily Herald happy or sad about Birkett losing?
What’s next for Birkett? Future is up in the air - Christy Gutowski
His running mate soon will be out of a job, but Joe Birkett returned to work Wednesday with rolled-up sleeves and a wait-and-see attitude after a second statewide election loss.
The DuPage County state’s attorney has not ruled out seeking a fourth term in two years, but also said he’s weighing other options.
Voters elected Gov. Rod Blagojevich to a second term Tuesday over Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, with whom Birkett partnered as the lieutenant governor running mate on the GOP ticket.
The election loss leaves Birkett’s political future — if he has one — in question. He is only midway into his third term as state’s attorney, but Birkett has hinted this may be his last term.
At 51, the Wheaton man’s tough-prosecutor reputation could land him a lucrative, private practice with a concentration in government relations or civil litigation. He also could become a judge.
Still, many wonder if Birkett will be able to leave the office he helped build. His own words Wednesday seemed to echo that thought.
“The reality is, if it were only up to me, I would have never run for anything else because I love this job, but I was recruited, and I’m a party loyalist,” he said.
Birkett became a prosecutor in 1981 and rose through the ranks for the next 15 years before being appointed to the top spot in 1996. He won election a month later, and voters re-elected him twice, most recently in November 2004.
In 2002, in his first attempt at statewide office, he lost the race for Illinois attorney general by fewer than 95,000 votes out of 3.5 million cast — while being outspent 3 to 1 by Lisa Madigan in the most expensive race ever for the office.
In the process, Birkett gained name recognition outside of DuPage County. Afterward, though, he faced a $715,000 political debt.
Birkett said he began touring the state again in December 2004 in support of fellow GOP candidates and while exploring his own possible gubernatorial run. Still in debt, though, he gave up his own candidacy and joined Topinka, at the urging of former Gov. Jim Edgar and others.
Birkett has retired much, if not all, of that debt during this past election, but most political insiders doubt he’ll get much support for a third statewide run after two losses.
Birkett isn’t so sure.
“We’ll see,” he said. “I think the Republican Party needs leadership and I plan to be part of that equation. I don’t know what specific role I’ll have, but I have a lot of support from the friends I’ve made on both sides of the aisle.”
If he doesn’t run for state’s attorney in 2008, potential hopefuls include four assistant prosecutors, two judges and a half-dozen private defense attorneys — some of whom are county board members.
It’d be up to DuPage County Board Chairman Robert Schillerstrom to fill a vacancy if Birkett steps down early in his third term.
“I personally would be very happy if he stayed on because I think he’s a very good state’s attorney,” Schillerstrom said. “I’ve always supported Joe Birkett, and that will certainly continue.”
Though disappointed with the election results, Birkett said he is excited that for the first time in two years he isn’t campaigning. He instead can focus on the job, getting back to volunteering as a boxing coach for teens, and enjoying some quality family time, such as fishing with his son, Nick.
“I don’t want to call balls and strikes yet,” Birkett said about defining his future. “I still want to swing the bat.”
DIERSEN HEADLINE: Daily Herald is sad about Democrat Vosicky's loss in DuPage County
GOP still strong in DuPage, but do results hint at decline? - Michael Wamble
The winds of change that swept Democrats into control of the U.S. House of Representatives also nearly thrust a party member from GOP-dominant DuPage County into the statehouse in Springfield.
By just 153 votes, in still unofficial results, the Republicans withstood what one political consultant called “the perfect storm” of national and local dissatisfaction with the GOP.
Elmhurst Republican Dennis Reboletti squeaked past Elmhurst Democrat Joseph Vosicky to win the open seat in the 46th House District.
Reboletti received just more than 50 percent of the vote to take the seat, although Democrats still weren’t ready late Wednesday to make any concessions.
The GOP did not lose one DuPage-based seat Tuesday. But the fact the 46th District was so close could be an indication of some small loosening of GOP dominance.
Longtime Republican House leader Lee Daniels had represented this district since 1975, often winning by landslides or facing no opponent at all.
Just two years ago, Daniels got about 63 percent of the vote against Vosicky. Daniels, the one-time state House speaker, opted not to run again, and Reboletti was a less formidable opponent for Vosicky than Daniels, who was long among the most powerful Republicans in the state.
But Tuesday’s much stronger showings by Vosicky and some other DuPage Democrats have led other party leaders to take notice.
“DuPage County is changing. It’s a much more diverse county,” U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said. “I mean, look at Vosicky — how close did he come? I was amazed by that. He worked hard, and he’s a good fellow. But in DuPage? Whoa!”
Diversity, the Democrat said, will lead to more independent voters in traditionally Republican districts.
High visibility also helps, said Gayl Ferraro, leader of the DuPage Democratic Party.
“For Joe, it was the second time he ran, and it gave him good name recognition,” Ferraro said, adding Vosicky’s totals are the fruit of party building that started in 2002 and now “obviously is working.”
As a Republican, Reboletti said a “blue tidal wave came through here and we were able to withstand it.”
Addison Township GOP chief Patrick Durante said the lesson of this race for nearby GOP districts is: “Be careful, ’cause it can happen to you.”
Durante attributed Tuesday’s close finish in the 46th District to national Democratic Party efforts to elect Tammy Duckworth in the 6th Congressional District.
“Union and AFL-CIO and patronage workers went to work here,” Durante said. “In 42 years in politics, we’ve never saw such (Democratic) manpower in droves.”
Ferraro said such claims ignore the level of out-of-state help the Republicans also got.
Still, Duckworth lost by about 2 percentage points to Republican state Sen. Peter Roskam.
So when Democratic state House Speaker Michael Madigan saw the tally in the 46th House race Wednesday, he must have regretted not sending in more resources, GOP consultant Art Hanlon said.
“The outcome might have been different,” Hanlon said.
Coupling more resources with the fact that more minority voters in Addison Township are leaning Democratic, Hanlon said some areas in DuPage are no longer automatic Republican wins.
“People are looking at the issues more than party affiliation,” Hanlon said. “Mr. Reboletti, who is a good candidate, in any other year would have come out about 10 percent higher using past predictors.”
But now, Hanlon said, voters have “sent a clear message that the demographics are changing in DuPage. A one-size-fits-all Republican Party doesn’t fit the suburbs anymore.”
After 31 years, there will be a new state representative in Illinois House District 46.
Republican Dennis Reboletti of Elmhurst won 50 percent of the vote for the House seat Tuesday, according to unofficial results with all 87 precincts reporting. Joseph Vosicky of Elmhurst finished with 49.6 percent of the vote.
The seat became available after longtime Republican leader State Rep. Lee Daniels announced his retirement in late 2005.
Daniels was first elected to the post in 1975.
Reboletti, a Will County prosecutor, has worked as an Addison Township trustee since August 2000. He served from 1997-2001 as an Elmhurst city alderman.
During his campaign, Reboletti made zero-based budgeting and more state money for school districts his key issues. Zero-based budgeting means agency budgets start at zero and each line item has to be justified.
Additional state education money, Reboletti said, could come from casino tax revenue if a gambling license is issued in Chicago.
Vosicky made a proposal to tax so-called “junk food” to raise revenues for schools a key part of his campaign.
Reboletti said his narrow victory was the result of voters connecting with his stance on not raising taxes “and making the state live within its means.”
The narrow margins of the race Tuesday, Reboletti said, had to do with another contest.
“The millions of dollars that came in for (Peter) Roskam and (Tammy) Duckworth went to this race and to my opponent," he said.
Reboletti credited his campaign workers for gaining the vote that gave him his 153 margin of victory.
“We had a great organization that never gave up,” he said.
This was Reboletti’s second attempt for a seat in Springfield.
In 2004, he lost his bid for state Senate in the 23rd District to state Sen. Carole Pankau.
For Vosicky, a Chicago-based attorney, this was his second unsuccessful bid for the 46th District seat.
The district includes all or parts of Addison, Bensenville, Elk Grove Village, Elmhurst, Itasca, Lombard, Villa Park and Wood Dale.
DIERSEN HEADLINE: Daily Herald editorializes about the impact of political corruption on the election
Voters in a vise on vice - Joseph Ryan
Voters overwhelming indicated this election year that they care most about corruption. So what did they do in the voting booth Tuesday?
They re-elected Gov. Rod Blagojevich, whose administration is the subject of multiple pay-to-play federal investigations - whose top fund-raiser was just indicted for allegedly masterminding a multi-million-dollar kickback scheme - and whose campaign manager is listed in federal indictments as helping that scheme.
Then, they handed the state treasurer's office to Alexi Giannoulias, who has never held a public post but whose family bank is alleged to have made loans to reputed mobsters and accused political schemers.
Finally, in Cook County, they elected Todd Stroger to run the county board, which is under federal investigation for corruption under the watch of Stroger's father, John.
To paraphrase Blagojevich's endless attack ads - what are they thinking?
"This is a case of the ads working. The voters went through month after month of ads that said 'Candidate A is a crook' and 'Candidate B is a crook,'" said Cindi Canary, director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. "It is not that (the voters) don't care about ethics - they felt they really weren't offered an alternative."
An ABC 7 Chicago/Daily Herald statewide poll before the election showed voters rated "promoting ethics and honesty in government" as their top concern, giving it an 8.9 on a 1 to 10 scale. Numerous other polls showed similar sentiments.
With the previous governor sentenced to prison for corruption and federal indictments continuing, candidates in key races ran millions - and millions - of dollars in attack ads on corruption.
Blagojevich tied opponent Judy Baar Topinka to disgraced Gov. George Ryan and reminded the public about her own history of handing out no-bid state contracts to political supporters. Topinka rebutted with Blagojevich's federal probes and asked the question in ads, "Had enough?"
Blagojevich won over Topinka and a third-party candidate with 50 percent of the vote.
When Cook County Board president candidate Tony Peraica hit Stroger with attack ads on his father's scandals, the Chicago Democrat came back with ads accusing Peraica of wanting to raise taxes. Peraica has also took hits for getting taxpayer-funded legal work from political backers in the western suburbs.
Stroger won with 54 percent.
Giannoulias refuted attack ads on mob-tie allegations from Republican state Sen. Christine Radogno with accusations she traded votes on utility rate hikes for campaign cash from utility companies.
Giannoulias won with 54 percent.
"It is an incredible display of what negative ads can do," said longtime political observer Paul Green, director of Roosevelt University's School of Policy Studies.
Yet, Green also contends the Democratic sweeps in the face of federal probes and voter concern over corruption is the result of a weak Republican Party.
The GOP has slowly been losing its once-dominant collar county base, which in the past balanced the tidal wave of Democratic votes out of Chicago. In the Stroger race, Cook County voters haven't elected a Republican board president since 1966.
"We used to call it in the old days, 'divide and surrender,' " Green said. "You have to find a way to limit that to some degree or else you are never going to win."
Still, lifelong watchdogs like Canary aren't taking the vote tallies Tuesday to mean corruption is not a factor. Her organization issued a challenge to Blagojevich Wednesday to make campaign contribution limits a top priority in the coming year.
"I'm actually pretty hopeful," Canary said. "If people speak out ... [politicians] are going to have to respond."
Cook County: Finger-pointing begins over slow vote tabulation - Rob Olmstead
It wasn't overt, but the Cook County clerk's office and its contractor Sequoia Voting Systems subtly began positioning each other Wednesday to take the fall for the dismally slow tabulation of suburban votes for the second election in a row.
While both promised a joint investigation to get to the bottom of the problem before February's municipal elections, Clerk David Orr said his workers were not the problem and a Sequoia spokeswoman said she believed the equipment was not to blame.
"I don't think, at this point, it is the inability of (election) judges to perform," said Orr.
"Sequioa's voting equipment performed very well," said Michelle Shafer, vice-president of communications for the company.
Both parties agreed that about 51 percent of the vote totals failed to transmit wirelessly from suburban precincts to county headquarters.
Those numbers were similar to the amount that failed in Chicago. There, 46 percent of the precincts failed to transmit wirelessly, said Tom Leach of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.
In both the city and suburbs, the backup plan was to take the data cartridges and memory cards to receiving stations and then try transmitting again. The difference may have been that the city's receiving station had a dedicated T1 line to make those transmissions.
Orr, who had not slept during the night Tuesday, did not know Wednesday evening if the county receiving stations were equipped with T1 lines or if the attempt there was another wireless attempt.
But, either way, he downplayed the possibility that T1 lines were a likely factor.
"It's possible, but I doubt it," he said.
In any case, the city had about 72 percent of its results in and posted on the Web at 11 p.m. while the county remained stuck at about 49 percent, and stayed there for several hours. After transmissions at receiving stations failed or went slowly, the decision was made around 11 p.m. to drive the cartridges and packs downtown for manual downloading.
Although reporters Wednesday kept trying to dissect what made the county so slow compared to the city, Orr said the two defied easy comparisons. The county, for instance, has twice as many touch-screen machines, and therefore twice as many data packs to transmit.
Which raised the question of whether Cook County, and even Chicago, is trying to do too much, offering two different voting systems and insisting results be first counted at the polling place before central tabulation. The theory is that giving judges too many things to do invites problems.
"The equipment in Chicago and Cook County is unique," said Christopher Lackner, a spokesman for Sequoia.
But apparently that burden isn't too much for DuPage County, which also counts its votes in the polling place and offers both touch-screen and paper ballots. DuPage, however, had fewer than half of the roughly 600,000 votes that suburban Cook did this election. DuPage also uses Diebold Election Systems.
Another possible difference between Chicago's and Cook County's processes may be that the city began uploading its early voting ballots before
7 p.m. The county did not start until then because Orr interpreted the law as preventing him from doing so.
The early-voting ballots came from precincts all over the suburbs, and so were much bigger files than single-precinct results, said Lackner. That created a logjam in the process as precinct files backed up behind early-voting results.
Regardless of the cause, plenty of county officials were livid at the repeat performance of slow returns - something that may have financial consequences for Sequoia, which is still owed the bulk of its contract money.
"I am disgusted," said current Cook County Board President Bobbie Steele.
President-elect Todd Stroger, whose election was in doubt late into the morning because of the slow returns, also said it was clear there was a problem.
Commissioner Peter Silvestri, who gave Orr's office a stern warning before the fall election that another screw-up would not be tolerated, said he thought things went more smoothly for actual voters, but he was reserving judgment on the tabulation issue until he talked to Orr and his office.
Peraica's campaign excoriated Orr's office for downplaying the problem Tuesday night, something Orr denied he did.
"I thought I explained over and over again ... that I was dissatisfied with the result," Orr said Wednesday.
Dan Proft, a spokesman for defeated presidential candidate Anthony Peraica, early Wednesday morning chided county officials for referring to "minor" transmission problems.
"That's like saying the Titanic was a minor boat accident," Proft said.
Parke won’t concede defeat - Ed Fanselow
Republican state Rep. Terry Parke did not to concede defeat Wednesday, despite mounting evidence that challenger Fred Crespo had scored an upset victory in their Northwest suburban House district.
With 90 percent of 44th House District precincts reporting as of 4:30 p.m., unofficial results showed the Democrat Crespo with 53 percent of the vote and Parke with the remaining 47 percent.
“I’m prepared to make whatever decision I have to once I know the facts,” Parke said.
To mount a comeback, though, he would have to pick up nearly 1,100 votes in the eight precincts where votes are still waiting to be counted.
The 44th House district includes Streamwood and parts of Hoffman Estates, Hanover Park, Schaumburg and Elgin.
Crespo, a local real estate agent and Hoffman Estates village board member, did not return calls seeking comment throughout the day Wednesday but said late Tuesday that “things look good” for his campaign.
Parke has held the seat since 1984 and would become the Illinois House’s longest-serving Republican if he defies the odds and wins re-election.
Vote totals, though, suggest that he ultimately wilted under an eleventh-hour campaign push by Crespo and House Democrats, who spent more than $60,000 on a series of anti-Parke mail pieces during the last two weeks.
The ads portrayed Parke as “out of touch” with a mostly moderate district, pointing in particular to his recent votes against embryonic stem cell research, a proposed ban on military-style assault weapons, and a 2003 measure that guaranteed that women must be paid the same as men for the same work.
Parke, for his part, tried to portray Crespo as a pawn of the Chicago Democratic Machine.
Steve Brown, a spokesman for Democratic House speaker Michael Madigan — who personally recruited Crespo for the race — said Crespo’s apparent victory was “a rejection of the old, old story-line of (making) the Democratic leadership from Chicago the bogeyman.’”
“Changing demographics,” in the suburbs were also at play, Brown said.
Murphy v. Gutzmer: GOP hangs on to state Senate seat Harper trustee bucks Democratic trend in 27th District contest - Sara Faiwell
It took more than 20 hours after the polls closed Tuesday, but Harper College Trustee Matt Murphy has been declared the winner of the hotly contested 27th state Senate race.
Murphy, of Palatine, beat out firefighter Peter Gutzmer in the close contest.
The victory makes Murphy one of the few GOP state senate candidates in the suburbs to win his midterm election.
Around 4 p.m. Wednesday, Gutzmer, of Hoffman Estates, called Murphy and conceded.
“It was a hard-fought battle, and I am very pleased to have been able to win in what was a very difficult year for Republicans and my first run for the Senate,” said Murphy.
With 94 percent of the precincts counted Wednesday afternoon, unofficial results show Murphy captured 53 percent of the vote and Gutzmer had 47 percent.
“Our campaign brought important issues into the light and has put these problems in the forefront of the public’s mind,” Gutzmer said in a statement.
“My supporters and I will continue to move forward and meet the great challenges our state and communities are facing in the years ahead.”
Murphy and Gutzmer were vying to replace retiring Sen. Wendell Jones of Palatine in a 2-year term.
“I am certainly glad the seat I had for eight years remained in Republican hands,” Jones said Wednesday. “Matt had his work cut out for him because of the divisions in the Republican party locally.”
During the last week of the campaign, voters got several negative mailings claiming that Murphy was “too extreme” for the Republicans in the district.
A group called Mainstream Republicans and Independents of Northern Illinois sent them out and compared Murphy to right-winger Alan Keyes, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate in 2004.
Murphy said voters were able to see past the negative mailings.
“What it says is that voters were willing to investigate and see who I really am as a candidate and how I stand,” he said. “When they did that, they could see that I reflected the views of this district.”
Murphy, who was elected to a 6-year term on the Harper College board in 2003, said he will leave the college board when he takes his legislative seat.
Both he and Jones say one of his priorities should be to help mend the fences when it comes to the GOP party in this area.
“It is my sincere hope that we can put infighting behind us and focus on the other party, who is our real opponent in politics,” said Murphy.
The 27th state Senate District includes Palatine and Inverness, northern Arlington Heights and parts of Barrington, Barrington Hills, Buffalo Grove, Hoffman Estates, South Barrington, Rolling Meadows, Wheeling and Prospect Heights.
DuPage County Board Member Robert Heap says he’s not enticed by $750,000 offer - Robert Sanchez
It had all the earmarks of a sweetheart deal for a retiring DuPage County Board member.
Less than a month before Robert Heap bids farewell to the seat he’s held for 16 years, an emergency telephone system board that he chairs drafts a contract for a yet-to-be-hired project manager.
The document details how the employee would receive $750,000 in salary and benefits during the next four years to oversee the installation of an upgraded countywide emergency radio system.
And the name repeatedly cited as the recipient of the job offer: Robert Heap.
But Heap insists the contract is nothing more than wishful thinking on the part of several members of the DuPage County Emergency Telephone System Board.
“They think I am the guy,” Heap said. “But I am not the guy. No offer was made.”
Not everyone is buying that.
“It didn’t just happen to get there (on an agenda) without his knowledge and without his prompting,” said Woodridge Mayor William Murphy.
But Heap, a 50-year-old Naperville attorney, said the seemingly lucrative deal wasn’t all that attractive to him, that he makes more money with his legal practice.
“There’s no question I would be better off with my law firm,” he said. “As of this time, I am not interested.”
Heap said he has postponed plans for the telephone board to talk about the contract details behind closed doors today.
But some members of the emergency telephone group characterized the contract as a sweetheart deal for Heap, and their opposition is the reason for its removal from the agenda. Perks include six weeks vacation, annual 5 percent cost-of-living raises, and tuition reimbursements. The annual salary starts at $129,000 with benefits pushing it to $177,000.
Also, the DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference criticized the plan, calling it a “no-bid” contract for Heap.
Conference members were urged to complain about the absence of price quotes from others who could do the work.
The controversy was sparked by the telephone’s board efforts to meet a federal mandate requiring some interoperability among all emergency communication systems by 2013.
Funded with about $6 million a year from a monthly phone tax, the board hired Schaumburg-based Motorola Inc. to install towers and other equipment throughout the county.
Eventually, someone must be hired to oversee the multimillion-dollar project.
“You need somebody to keep an eye on things to make sure it’s done the way you want it to be done,” Heap said.
Heap said the sooner a project manager is hired the better. But, he stressed, he wasn’t behind the push to give him the job or draft the contract with his name.
“There were some people on the board who asked if I would be interested,” said Heap, who has served as chairman since 1996. “And I told them, ‘I’m not getting involved in that.’æ”
Murphy agreed that a project manager might be needed. But there needs to be a formal discussion about whether to create the position.
And if someone is hired, it doesn’t have to be a full-time employee with benefits.
“You very easily could go with a consulting firm to implement the contract,” he said, “which would be far less expensive.”
Five DuPage County precinct: Bipartisan group to tally final results - Christy Gutowski
Despite some glitches, another DuPage County election is history.
A bipartisan group will gather at 10 a.m. today inside the election commission headquarters to tally results from five precincts where a technical malfunction prohibited an earlier final count.
The glitch occurred when a few of the 724 memory cards used to tabulate votes failed to store properly and, thus, couldn’t be uploaded into the central database.
Robert Saar, the commission’s executive director, said the ballots in question could have been recounted earlier, but he instead opted to wait until this morning when members of both political parties are available to ensure fair counts.
“Those ballots are locked up and secure,” he said Wednesday. “We’re not going to hot-wire the system. We’re going to wait and recount with a bipartisan group.”
Saar wasn’t immediately certain which five of the county’s 732 precincts were impacted, but he doesn’t anticipate it to change any election outcomes since none of the races were that close.
The Roselle Fire Protection District might think otherwise. Its tax-hike request appeared headed toward defeat, but final results in one precinct in Cook County and another in DuPage still were missing. It’s 150 votes shy of passing.
More than 260,000 people, or 50 percent of DuPage County’s registered voters, cast ballots this election, including the 22,000 who took advantage of early voting.
Saar attributed the night’s only other major election snafu to human error. Some election judges failed to turn in 19 other memory cards — after polling places closed — to be uploaded into the central database. He said bipartisan groups retrieved the missing cards, which still were inside optical scanners in secure lockers, and the results were tallied.
Still, both problems are relatively minor, Saar said, especially in light of all the recent technological election changes.
With the past presidential elections marred by glitches, authorities abandoned punch-card ballots in favor of optical scanners and touch-screen machines.
Changes in state law regarding early, absentee and provisional voting also created new challenges. For example, it may be two more weeks before every vote is counted because election officials must accept ballots as long as each is postmarked on or before Nov. 7.
In response to the changes, the county’s estimated 2,000 election judges participated in stepped-up training through a federal grant. DuPage County also no longer relies on vendors for machine repairs and programming, opting instead to train in-house in order to safeguard from tampering.
“We’re not finished,” said Saar, who has handled 69 elections during his tenure. “We’ll continue making improvements but I think we’ve built a very solid foundation. It’s what the public wants and we’re delivering it.”
Kane County: Extended voting creates more provisional ballots - Adam Kovac
Kane County election officials say 1,124 ballots were cast in the 1¨-hour extension a judge ordered after dozens of polling sites did not open on time Tuesday.
The votes made between 7æp.m. — after the statutory close of balloting — and 8:30æp.m. are included among a total of 1,456 provisional ballots, Jay Bennett, the county’s deputy clerk, said Wednesday.
Of the total number of provisional ballots, 332 will be scrutinized, for example, to determine if the person voting was registered, Bennett said, adding it is unclear if the final tally will affect the outcome of the election.
The Kane County clerk oversees 202,680 registered voters in 223 precincts, which do not include the 71 that fall under control of the Aurora Election Commission.
Of the 96,514 ballots Tuesday, 87,210 were cast in the regular 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. balloting hours, 7,722 of the ballots were from early voters, and 1,582 are absentee ballots.
In McHenry County, 82,692 voters — about 44 percent of the 186,323 registered voters — cast a ballot Tuesday. That included early voters, but not absentee or provisional ballots. McHenry had no major voting disruptions, said County Clerk Katherine Schultz.
Kane County Judge F. Keith Brown granted a request filed on behalf of County Clerk John Cunningham to keep the polls open longer because of widespread problems using the new electronic voting machines.
The order marked the second time in as many elections the county has had extended time to vote — a St. Charles precinct was open a hour later in March after workers ran out of paper for paper ballots.
This week’s delays were caused by election judges who had not been trained to set up the computerized voting devices or had problems calling election officials, Cunningham said.
How GOP support of Simpson backfired Some political observers believe Geo-Karis’ backing gave Bond the victory - Russell Lissau
When Illinois and Lake County Republican Party leaders turned their backs on veteran state Sen. Adeline Geo-Karis to support challenger Suzanne Simpson in a heated GOP primary, they believed Simpson was their best shot at retaining the 31st District seat.
Even though Geo-Karis handily beat every Democrat she faced since first running for the Senate in 1978, they knew Democratic candidate Michael Bond was building support and a sizable campaign war chest.
So, expressing concerns about the 88-year-old Geo-Karis’ health, her ability to do the job for another four years and a potentially ugly battle with Bond, they threw their endorsements and their money — lots of it — to Simpson, who defeated her former political mentor.
But it didn’t matter.
Bond, of Grayslake, defeated Simpson, of the Grayslake area, in Tuesday’s general election. He won with very public support from Geo-Karis, who was so badly stung by her party’s rebuff that she appeared in Bond’s campaign literature and wrote a letter to potential voters touting his “knowledge, energy and morals.”
Bond downplayed Geo-Karis’ role in his win, calling her support one of several factors. But with fewer than 1,200 votes separating the candidates, some political observers believe enough Republicans followed the venerable Zion legislator to Bond’s camp to give him the victory.
“It clearly had an impact, and it was probably significant enough to make a difference,” Lake County GOP Chairman Daniel Venturi said.
Simpson disagreed, suspecting Geo-Karis’ allegiance pulled only a handful of voters to Bond. She believes she lost as part of a national Democratic “tidal wave.”
“Basically, people thought anybody was better than a Republican,” Simpson said.
In light of Tuesday’s Democratic surge, the Republican Party likely would have fared better if Geo-Karis had faced Bond, said Kent Redfield, a professor of political studies at the University of Illinois at Springfield. Being an incumbent candidate is worth a few percentage points at the polls, he said.
“Republicans needed every advantage they could get,” Redfield said. “Certainly Geo-Karis is close to being a political icon in that area. And you have to question whether that was the best move for the Senate Republicans to pursue.”
State Rep. JoAnn Osmond, who preceded Venturi as leader of the county’s Republican organization, said Bond probably would’ve won Tuesday regardless of whether he faced Geo-Karis or Simpson.
“The Democrats worked harder and were more (in tune) with the independent voters,” said Osmond, who supported Simpson in the primary. “We have to learn from that.”
Osmond was among the Republicans who drew Geo-Karis’ ire for backing Simpson in the 31st District, which includes nearly all of Lake County. Osmond doesn’t regret her choice and said she was disappointed by Geo-Karis’ decision to assist Bond.
“We still owe her (for) the fact that she represented us for 34 years,” Osmond said, including the six years Geo-Karis spent in the state House in that total. “She deserves our respect. But what she’s choosing to do now is different.”
Geo-Karis initially said she’d support Simpson after the primary but later wouldn’t endorse either candidate.
Even so, Bond’s team repeatedly tried to link him with the senator during the ensuing campaign. A photograph of Bond with the senator was featured prominently on his Web site, and one early campaign piece used that photo with a complimentary comment from Geo-Karis.
Bond also spoke of meeting with Geo-Karis during the campaign and seeking her advice.
Geo-Karis’ support became overt last week when two campaign pieces hit mailboxes. One was the letter in which she praised Bond, and the other featured excerpts from that missive.
State Sen. Terry Link, leader of the county’s Democratic organization, said the pieces were deliberately released just days before the election.
“It’s like a card game,” said Link, of Waukegan. “You don’t play your trump card the very first card. You’re going to play it toward the end, when you want to win the hand.”
On Wednesday, Geo-Karis said she was happy Bond won and admitted voting for him. She’s not planning to mend fences with her former Republican allies.
“I have nothing to make up (for) with them,” she said. “They attacked me.”
DIERSEN HEADLINE: Burt Constable unhappy that all the Republicans didn't lose
Some Republicans cling to rocks amid new Democrats’ tide - Burt Constable
You’ll get no proclamations from me that the Republican insurgents in our blue state of Illinois are “in the last throes.”
The state GOP faces what latest Republican casualty Donald Rumsfeld would call a “long, hard slog” just to get back to the point where it even has a throe. But the independent streak of voters never can be taken for granted.
Nobody understands this more than Congresswoman Melissa Bean, the 44-year-old Barrington Democrat who won re-election Tuesday to a seat that only a few years ago was considered the untouchable property of Republicans.
An hour after her victory speech Tuesday, Bean looks perfectly at home performing an impromptu line dance with her sister and a handful of other loved ones as the band plays a rousing Serbian folk song.
Disregarded before the 2002 election as little more than a gadfly buzzing around the remains of legendary Republican mainstay Phil Crane, the underfunded, unknown Bean finished 14 percentage points behind the incumbent. Two years later, she was the Democratic representative of a district that had always gone Republican and had been drawn to remain so.
This year, Bean was the target of a blistering $8 million TV ad campaign waged against her by multimillionaire investment banker David McSweeney of Barrington Hills and an angry national GOP that wanted its congressional seat back. President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Rudy Giuliani and even Sen. John McCain (the world’s most popular Republican) pulled out all the stops to beat her.
Instead, Bean got more than 50 percent of the vote in a three-way race and won by more than 5 percentage points.
Having shot their wad on this race and lost, the Republicans may be wary of pouring more money and effort into targeting her seat next time around. But Bean’s not about to assume the district is Democratic.
“I think it’s shifted a little bit, but for a long time, this district has been fiscally conservative and socially moderate,” said Bean, who fits that profile. While her election helped set the stage for liberal Democrat Nancy Pelosi to take over the House speaker position from Republican Dennis Hastert, Bean breaks from her party more than most.
“Coming out of a business background, I learned how to listen to customers,” Bean said, promising to hear the concerns of her constituents.
When Bean first won in 2004, people said her win was simply a referendum on Crane.
“This time it was a referendum on my performance,” Bean adds.
As crushed as the Republicans have to feel about Bean swimming along in a district where Democrats once feared to tread, the party successfully clung to a GOP rock of support in its highest-profile congressional race.
When Democrats and Republicans went head-to-head in a no-holds-barred fight for the 6th District seat that spans a changing DuPage County, Democratic darling Tammy Duckworth came up short.
Duckworth, a war veteran who lost both legs in Iraq, received national attention, money and the best and brightest of Democratic campaign gurus. Yet, her less-than-49 percent of the vote against winner Peter Roskam arguably was only marginally better than the result turned in two years ago by plucky, grass-roots underdog Christine Cegelis against Republican heavyweight Henry Hyde.
Could Cegelis and her local support have beaten Roskam?
“It is a very Republican area. I think you need a really a good ground game. I got 110,000 votes last time. It wasn’t all Republicans,” Cegelis said Wednesday from Wisconsin, where she has been working with the liberal Americans for Democratic Action. “Our philosophy was local people with local volunteers on the ground is what is going to win this race.”
After all, local voters are the ones who are “the deciders” in all these races. Speaking of which, there are only 495 campaign days left until the March 2008 primary elections.
Blagojevitch’s win worries some local executives - Anna Marie Kukec
Some suburban business leaders warned Wednesday that the state could face economic trouble with anti-business policies after Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich secured a second term.
Others said that while Illinois is still “anti-business,” the next four years could improve if the governor continues to work with business leaders.
“The governor and his agenda are all cost items and we think they will add to the burden of running a business in Illinois,” said Mike Skarr, chief executive officer of the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce. “I applaud his social policies, but we hope it’s not going to be achieved on the backs of Illinois businesses.”
Douglas Whitley, president of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, said Blagojevich’s priorities before didn’t match the priorities of business.
“We’re still worried about economic development, taxation and other issues that continue to need attention,” he said. “We’re also looking for more discussion about infrastructure investment and workman’s compensation.”
State officials disagreed. Blagojevich has created a business climate that encourages innovation and investment and is creating jobs, said Andrew Ross, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
He said Blagojevich has “listened and responded to the needs and the priorities of businesses both large and small for the last four years to help them grow and he will continue to do so.”
“The numbers tell the story: That climate is strong since Illinois corporations are reporting record high profits — nearly $24 billion in 2005 which is up from near $16 billion in 2001,” said Ross. “The governor, business and labor leaders also overhauled the workers’ compensation system for the first time in more than 25 years.”
The state hasn’t raised sales or incomes taxes, which keeps more money in peoples’ pockets and encourages more spending. The state also helped in others ways, such as investing more than $47 million to help small companies, he said.
Yet even the most optimistic business leaders said that Illinois needs to do more.
“In general, Illinois is not business friendly, but it is changing,” said Al Powers, president of Bloomingdale-based Now Health Group Inc., which has 10 health food stores called Fruitful Yield in Cook, DuPage and Kane counties.
“I’m not a supporter of the governor, but I feel he’s making some efforts that some companies, including ours, have benefited from, like grants to help with training.”
Laurie Stone, president of the Schaumburg Business Association, said the group will work with state officials to ensure business issues are addressed.
“We’ll continue to communicate those issues to the constitutional officers and hope they will consider business a part of their views,” Stone said.
Jerry Roper, chief executive officer of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, said he’s wants to continue to work with the governor.
“Their legacy should be one of growing businesses and creating jobs and maintaining our competitive set, such as competing not only against Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan, but across the national and globally,” said Roper. “We’re good partners and they need to see that,” he said of the business-government relationship.
Layoff report released after election State says economy strong despite 6,000 job loss - Anna Marie Kukec
Despite layoffs, state says economy is strong - Anna Marie Kukec
A day after the election, state officials posted the October report of layoffs that showed about 6,000 workers statewide could lose their jobs, one of the highest amounts posted in recent years.
The state routinely posts mass layoff reports online on the first or second day of each month. The October report was posted eight days late.
Andrew Ross, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, denied that the list was held until after the election.
“The staff person who is responsible for this was on the road all last week, and it was posted as soon as it was completed. Tuesday was also a state holiday,” Ross said.
Ross said the state’s economy is “very strong.”
“We have tremendous economic momentum here,” Ross said. “The numbers again tell the story. More than 151,000 new jobs have been created since January 2004, which is best in the Midwest. The unemployment rate is at its lowest level since October 2000. Exports and tourism are at record levels and more and more companies are coming to or expanding in Illinois. That progress is putting more people to work.”
Here’s what companies, which are required to file information on major layoffs, reported in October:
•Ameren Corp., the electric utility that serves downstate areas, said it could lay off 622 workers, but notified 1,324 because union bumping rules could affect who has to leave. Spokesman Leigh Morris said the company faces insolvency if the current electricity rate freeze is extended by the state. The state has had electric rates frozen for more than nine years to prepare for deregulation. Market-based rates are expected to start in January unless the state Legislature extends the freeze.
•Deluxe Media Services LLC in Vernon Hills intends to close by June and lay off about 75 workers. Parent company Rank PLC in the U.K. said it could still sell the DVD manufacturer, said Human Resources Vice President Marc Haynes.
•United Airline’s Wood Dale facility laid off 123 workers last month due to “cost efficiency.” A United spokeswoman was unavailable for comment.
•Cub Foods, which previously said it was selling its stores to new owners, listed closings in Chicago, Niles, Hanover Park, Arlington Heights, Tinley Park, Melrose Park, Matteson, Bridgeview, Oakbrook Terrace, Wheaton, Lombard, Downers Grove, Aurora, Mundelein, Round Lake Beach, Waukegan, Crystal Lake, Joliet, Plainfield and Loves Park. The closing could affect about 1,670 workers.
•Trizec Properties in Chicago reported it was laying off 85 workers starting in October because of a joint acquisition.
•Jacobs Twin Buick Imports in Chicago reported it would lay off 161 workers by Dec. 1.
•Weyerhaeuser Co. in Chicago said it’s closing and laying off 56 workers by Nov. 17.
•ABN AMRO Mortgage Group Inc. in Chicago said it’s laying off 63 workers by Dec. 31 because of restructuring.
•ServiceMaster Co. said it would lay off 170 workers at its Downers Grove headquarters and move to Memphis by Dec. 31.
•K’s Merchandise Mart, said it would close stores in Quincy, Champaign, Carbondale, Bradley, Decatur, Bloomington, Peoria, Springfield, Danville and Rockford, laying off around 935 workers.
•Owens-Illinois in Godfrey said it would close by Dec. 15 and lay off 255 workers.
•Maytag/Whirlpool in Herrin said it’s closing by Dec. 9 and laying off 920 workers, as part of a previously announced corporate restructuring plan.
•Acument Global Technologies Inc. in Rockford said it would close by Dec. 27 and layoff 129 workers.
•Cohen’s Furniture reported it was closing stores in Bloomington, Jacksonville, Peoria Heights, Peoria, Springfield and Washington, but did not provide the number affected.
DIERSEN HEADLINE: Daily Herald applauds Blagojevich's success
Governor overcomes corruption specter - Eric Krol
Gov. Rod Blagojevich overcame the specter of serious corruption probes Tuesday to win a second term as Democrats appeared headed toward a statewide sweep.
“I want the people of Illinois to know you ain’t seen nothing yet,” said Blagojevich, after repeating the Elvis Presley “I’m all shook up” line he used four years ago. “Strap on your seatbelts, put on your helmets, get ready to roll, we’ve got a lot more work to do for the hardworking people of our state.”
The governor scored 49 percent to Republican Judy Baar Topinka’s 40 percent with 90 percent of the unofficial statewide vote counted early today. Despite voters’ unfamiliarity with him, Green Party candidate Rich Whitney collected 11 percent in what’s believed to be a state record percentage for a third-party governor candidate.
The loss capped a quarter-century political career for Topinka, the three-term state treasurer who displayed her down-to-earth persona even in defeat. “That’s the way it goes. God bless him,” said Topinka, flanked by running mate Joe Birkett, the DuPage County state’s attorney.
Topinka sold GOP primary voters on the idea she was the best person to take on Blagojevich because her support of abortion rights wouldn’t alienate suburban women and her past vote-getting prowess in suburban Cook County meant she’d be able to stop the Democratic trend there.
Neither happened in the campaign. An Associated Press exit poll showed women supported Blagojevich over Topinka, who was trying to become Illinois’ first woman governor. And Blagojevich outpolled her in suburban Cook 53 percent to 38 percent with nearly half the vote counted.
The governor even took previously Republican Lake County, getting 46 percent to 43 percent for Topinka. And in the Republican stronghold of DuPage County, Topinka managed just 51 percent of the vote with 99 percent of the ballots counted.
Blagojevich, armed with what proved to be an insurmountable money advantage, was able to define Topinka from the get-go with an estimated $15 million or more in TV attack ads, a barrage that lasted half the year. Knowing that his own approval ratings were under 50 percent and that unflattering news coverage of the numerous corruption probes would continue throughout the campaign, Blagojevich set out to tarnish Topinka’s generally favorable image with voters as an accordion-playing, polka-dancing, fun-aunt-style politician.
“He made her appear to be (convicted ex-Gov.) George Ryan's twin sister,” said former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar. “She didn't have the money to go on TV and offset his negative ads. It shows the power of money and television.”
Blagojevich, who turns 50 next month, becomes the first Democrat to be re-elected governor since Otto Kerner in 1964. He’s promised to increase the minimum wage by $1, to $7.50 an hour, to move toward making health coverage available for everyone who doesn’t have it, and to sell the Illinois Lottery to raise more money for schools.
Blagojevich consultant Pete Giangreco said that agenda resonated with voters. "It was a very clear choice for voters about doing things for people that will move Illinois forward or taking a step back,” he said.
Also hovering over Blagojevich the next four years will be ongoing corruption probes into exactly how he was able to raise so much campaign cash so quickly.
Blagojevich’s ad blitz, featuring the thematic tagline “What’s she thinking?,” tied Topinka to convicted ex-governor Ryan, whose corruption now has been the dominant issue in three consecutive governor’s races.
Topinka, however, made it easier for Blagojevich’s campaign plan to succeed because of her loose-cannon approach. It was Topinka, after all, who was captured on tape at the 2002 Illinois State Fair telling Ryan he’s a “damn decent guy and I love you dearly,” even though Ryan already was engulfed in scandal.
The constant barrage allowed Blagojevich to drive voters’ negative perceptions of Topinka’s even higher than his own - one poll showed each candidate approaching an unheard-of 60 percent unfavorable rating. The ads also allowed Blagojevich to paper over federal corruption probes into what U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald termed “very serious allegations of endemic hiring fraud” in the Blagojevich administration and allegations that state contracts were traded for campaign contributions. Just weeks ago, FBI Chicago chief Robert Grant characterized the ongoing probes as a “gathering storm.”
Missed opportunities seemed to define the Topinka campaign. Blagojevich’s top fund-raiser, Wilmette businessman Antoin “Tony” Rezko, was indicted in mid-October on charges he schemed to shake down firms that wanted investment deals at the state teacher pension board. Even though the indictment put Blagojevich’s top two money men under federal suspicion, Topinka never aired a TV ad criticizing the governor for the situation.
Her campaign aides explained she simply didn’t have enough money to compete. The lack of money and early-and-often attacks by Blagojevich meant Topinka also was unable to tell her story or present a coherent theme, although her own, infrequent negative ads countered with a “Had Enough?” tagline.
By the final weekend, Topinka was reduced to sending out surrogates to attack the Green Party’s Whitney about his past as a Socialist Labor Party official to try to drive unsatisfied-with-Blagojevich voters into her column.
For Whitney, a Carbondale attorney, the election was a success - by scoring more than 5 percent, the Green Party will get easier ballot access in 2008.
DIERSEN HEADLINE: Chicago Tribune hopes Hastert resigns and a Democrat wins his seat
'Accidental Speaker' calls it quits Hastert says he'll stay in House, but friends hint he's hoping for ambassadorial post - Mike Dorning and Christi Parsons
WASHINGTON -- It was a sex scandal that made Dennis Hastert the House speaker and a sex scandal that helped unmake him.
The "Accidental Speaker," whose unlikely rise to the top ends with Hastert as the longest-serving Republican speaker in history, was plucked from an obscure junior position in the party leadership during the chaotic moments after newly nominated Republican speaker Bob Livingston resigned in December 1998 after the disclosure of an extramarital affair.
This fall, controversy over Hastert's response to the sexual misconduct of another colleague, former Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.), who sent sexually explicit electronic communications to underage male former pages, largely sidelined the speaker as his party struggled mightily but unsuccessfully to retain control of the House.
On Wednesday, after Democrats won the House amid voter concerns about corruption and the war in Iraq, Hastert, 64, announced he would not stay on as party leader once the new Congress takes office in January. But he said he would continue to serve as a member, although several close associates suggested he would not serve the full term and indicated Hastert might be interested in an ambassadorial appointment, possibly to Japan.
"As a former wrestling coach, I know what it is like when your team takes second place in the state tournament. It hurts. And so it is with politics," Hastert said in a statement, reaching back to his previous career as a high school teacher and coach in Yorkville.
The new Republican House leader, he added, "will have the responsibility to emphasize conservative values and reform principles. I will not seek this role, but will support our leader to the best of my ability."
During his eight years as speaker, Hastert provided calm, deliberate leadership that steadied congressional Republicans after four years of tumult under his impetuous, combative predecessor, Newt Gingrich. He had the slenderest of margins at first. During his first two years, the loss of just five Republican votes could doom legislation. Yet he held together an unruly coalition to pass the party's agenda.
Once there was a Republican in the White House, he delivered almost every key element of President Bush's legislative platform—from tax cuts and support for the war in Iraq to a controversial energy program and trade agreements, even a prescription drug benefit that was anathema to the party's fiscal conservatives.
Blagojevich: 'A loss to Illinois'
For Illinois, he worked comfortably across party lines with such local Democratic leaders as Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. His legacy to the state includes a boost in federal transportation spending that has aided such local projects as the repaving of the Dan Ryan Expressway, widening of Interstate Highway 55 and plans for the Prairie Parkway.
"He was extremely helpful to us in trying to help us here in Illinois and it didn't matter that I was a Democratic governor and he was a Republican speaker of the House," said Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat. "It's clearly a loss to Illinois."
Hastert was criticized for insufficient attention to ethical lapses that eventually embroiled the party in a series of corruption scandals and helped turn voters against Republicans. He dismissed the House ethics committee chairman after it admonished then-Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and hesitated to press for DeLay's resignation after the Texan became embroiled in the Jack Abramoff lobbying corruption scandal. His office's response to an early complaint about inappropriate e-mails sent by Foley also is now the subject of an ethics committee investigation.
Fiscal conservatives became discontented over time by an explosion of pork-barrel projects and rising federal spending as Hastert and other GOP leaders sought to assist members in difficult re-election races with passage of hometown projects.
Hastert's own financial dealings stirred controversy this past summer after disclosure of a multimillion-dollar profit he made on land he bought and sold near the proposed path of the Prairie Parkway, for which he secured federal funding.
On Wednesday, the day after learning he would no longer be speaker, Hastert retreated to his sprawling property in rural Plano, surrounding himself with friends and a few aides and speaking by phone with House Republicans. Except for his written statement, he refused to talk publicly.
"It was a bummer last night, clearly," said lobbyist Dan Mattoon, a longtime informal adviser who was with Hastert at his home. "But he's realistic. He thinks he had a good run." It was an extension of the solitude Hastert had imposed on himself for several weeks before the election. As the spiraling Foley scandal tainted Hastert and his aides, he decided that previously planned campaign trips to help fellow Republicans would instead hurt them.
Considered retirement in '04
Ironically, Hastert was thinking about retiring several years ago. But then President Bush called him to the White House in 2004 for a chat and, as the two were seated in the Oval Office, Bush asked him to consider staying on until the end of the current administration, Hastert said in a recent interview.
When the president asks, Hastert said, "You don't really say, 'No, excuse me, but I'm not going to do it.'"
Now Hastert is looking toward the future. Friends say he has expressed interest in serving as a U.S. ambassador and is particularly interested in a posting to Japan. But they said he has other interests and, for the time being, intends to represent his district in Congress.
DIERSEN HEADLINE: Chicago Tribune overjoyed that Democrat Senate President Emil Jones will wield more power
Senate president wields more power - Ray Long and Crystal Yednak
llinois Democratic Senate President Emil Jones will enter the new General Assembly next year with the biggest majority a single party has enjoyed in 35 years, giving him more power to push his agenda to bolster education funding and school construction projects.
Senate Democrats picked up five seats in Tuesday's election for a 37-22 advantage over Republicans.
Jones put together a team of candidates and spent millions of dollars on the campaign, which took advantage of the nationwide Democratic tide that ousted Republicans from control of Congress.
House Speaker Michael Madigan, the Southwest Side lawmaker who chairs the Illinois Democratic Party, expects to pick up a seat when all of the votes are tallied, spokesman Steve Brown said. That would give Madigan a 66 to 52 majority when the new legislature convenes in January. But House Republicans are eyeing results for any potential challenge.
Jones' strong majority puts him in position to apply even more pressure on school funding, including his long-stated belief that Illinois should increase income taxes in return for lowering property taxes to fund public schools. The idea has had trouble getting traction because Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat and one of Jones' closest allies, has promised not to raise sales or income taxes.
Jones is in better position to win approval of a school construction proposal that has fallen short in the Senate because three additional Republicans were needed to put together the 36-vote supermajority for approval of state borrowing. Democratic candidates also pushed creating a pool of small businesses to secure health insurance for workers and, in some cases, banning semiautomatic assault weapons.
With 37 Democrats in January, Jones will have a much better chance of passing whatever he wants and overriding the governor's vetoes.
Republicans, who will face an even tougher challenge than they do now, were left to question what happened to their election strategy and how they can be effective in the new climate.
"When you have a veto-proof legislative chamber, it completely changes the leverage and role of the minority party," said Sen. Kirk Dillard, the DuPage County Republican chairman.
Democrats who picked up new Senate seats were Linda Holmes of Aurora, Michael Noland of Elgin, Michael Bond of Grayslake, Dan Kotowski of Park Ridge and Michael Frerichs of Downstate Gifford.
House Democrats said they counted on adding one seat after returns from 90 percent of the precincts showed veteran Republican Rep. Terry Parke losing to Democrat Fred Crespo, though Parke has not conceded. Both are from Hoffman Estates.
Republican Dennis Reboletti declared victory Wednesday over Democrat Joseph Vosicky, whose campaign manager said they were not ready to concede. That battle for the seat held by former Republican leader Lee Daniels appeared to come down to about 150 votes, an unusually close margin for a Republican in DuPage County, according to unofficial returns.
House Republicans said they were considering a recount in the close race in which Democratic Rep. Kurt Granberg of Carlyle appeared to have beaten Republican John Cavaletto of Salem.
DIERSEN HEADLINE: Chicago Tribune overjoyed about Democrat victories in the suburbs
Democrats get wins in unlikely places National coattails extend to suburbs - Jeff Long, Susan Kuczka, Hal Dardick, Carolyn Starks, Dave Wischnowsky, Joseph Sjostrom and William Presecky
Surging Democrats benefited from a "trickle-down effect" as they captured seats in the Chicago suburbs long held by Republicans, who kept a grip on county boards, political leaders said Wednesday.
"It's a national tsunami," said Will County Republican Chairman Jack Partelow. "That might not be the best word, but this is a national trend. It probably would not have happened had it not been for the national trend."
For the first time in more than a century, a Democrat won a seat on the Republican-controlled McHenry County Board on Tuesday. Democrats also won sheriff's races in Lake and Kane Counties.
And in Will County, the party of victorious Gov. Rod Blagojevich won races for treasurer and regional schools superintendent, giving Democrats control of 6 of 10 countywide seats.
In a cluster of high-profile congressional races, Democrats kept one north suburban seat and came close to winning two others. U.S. Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.) won re-election in the 8th District, and Tammy Duckworth narrowly lost to Republican Peter Roskam in the 6th District. Another Democrat, businessman Dan Seals, put up a strong showing against U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk in the 10th District.
The Democratic sweep at the state level and the party's dominance in national races spurred the Democratic onslaught at the local level, officials said.
Another factor could be that more Democrats are moving to the suburbs and getting politically active, whether it's running for office or just showing up at the polls, said Matt Streb, an assistant professor of political science at Northern Illinois University.
In the Lake County sheriff's race, Democrat Mark Curran's victory marked the continuation of a trend that began 10 years ago when county Recorder of Deeds Mary Ellen Vanderventer became the first Democrat elected to a countywide post in the far north suburbs.
With voters showing two-term Republican Sheriff Gary Del Re the door, Democrats now hold three of the county's top seven offices. The 23-member County Board continues to be firmly in Republican control with just six Democrats.
Both Republican and Democratic officials acknowledged that residents who have moved to Lake County over the last decade have changed the political landscape by regularly crossing party lines.
For example, many Republican voters who supported their gubernatorial candidate, Judy Baar Topinka, with 43 percent of Lake County's vote, crossed over to support the re-election of Democratic Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan, who collected 78 percent of the vote.
In Will County, Republican Sheriff Paul Kaupas bucked the Democratic trend and won by about 10 percentage points. Pat Barry, Kaupas' spokesman, said he believes changing demographics had little to do with the Democratic victories.
U.S. Rep. Jerry Weller, a Republican whose district covers most of Will County, won by less than 7 percent in the county, even though he had a campaign war chest that dwarfed that of Democratic opponent John Pavich, Barry said. In 2004 Weller won Will County by more than 16 percentage points and in 2002 by a whopping 25 points.
"I really think it was a carry-down effect," Barry said. "When they go in there, they push or pick Democrat and they basically go down the line with it."
Partelow shared that view, pointing to Democratic victories in the races for county treasurer and regional schools superintendent. Partelow noted Republicans held their veto-proof 20-7 majority on the County Board, even though 12 GOP seats were up for re-election.
In Kane County, the election of Democrat Pat Perez as sheriff marked a break in the political grip that Republicans have held on countywide offices.
With his victory, 51 percent to 49 percent over Republican Kevin Williams, Perez became the first Democrat to hold countywide office since 1999, when longtime Coroner Mary Lou Kearns took a state job.
Three-term Sheriff Ken Ramsey, who didn't seek re-election, had endorsed Williams.
"I obviously got some crossover votes from the Republicans and a lot of independents," Perez said.
In DuPage County, Democrats ran for 5 of the 12 seats on the County Board, receiving 40 to 45 percent of the vote in their districts. Even though none won, the Democratic vote was about 10 percentage points higher than in the 2004 election. Republicans will continue to hold all 18 seats on the board.
Pat Durante, Republican Party chairman in Addison Township, said the Democratic vote reflected the strong campaign waged for Duckworth and for Democratic legislative candidate Joseph Vosicky.
Vosicky ran against Dennis Reboletti for the 46th District seat in the state House, which was vacated with the retirement of former House Minority Leader Lee Daniels (R-Elmhurst). With all precincts reporting, Reboletti held a narrow lead, but Vosicky had declined to concede.
The win by Democrat James Kennedy of Lake in the Hills in the McHenry County Board election was the most surprising because he beat an incumbent Republican in one of the staunchest GOP counties, said NIU's Streb.
Kennedy said his party's time has come, even if he will be alone among 23 Republicans on the County Board.
"There's more Democrats moving out to the region," said Kennedy, who beat Woodstock restaurant owner Perry Moy. "There are independent voters going back and forth, depending on the candidate. There are swing voters looking at particular issues."
DIERSEN HEADLINE: Chicago Tribune promotes Blagojevich and his social agenda
Energized by a new start Blagojevich vows federal probes won't derail social agenda - John Chase and Rick Pearson
Opening the next chapter of his political life, Gov. Rod Blagojevich Wednesday promised that the federal investigations that are sure to hover over his second term will not prevent him from pursuing his ambitious social agenda.
In the same spot where he greeted voters after winning office four years ago, Blagojevich was at the Jefferson Park CTA station only hours after defeating Republican challenger Judy Baar Topinka. He again laid out an agenda that piggybacks on initiatives he launched in his first term and said he remains unconcerned about the federal activity surrounding his administration.
"I know the truth of things and I trust in the truth, and the truth, as they say in the Bible, as it's written in the Bible, the truth will set you free," he said as he reached out to morning commuters. "And as long as you keep trying to do the right thing and you know what the truth is, you got nothing to worry about."
Blagojevich, who will be inaugurated in early January, is the state's first chief executive re-elected since Republican Gov. Jim Edgar in 1994. He's also the first Democrat to win a second term since Otto Kerner in 1964.
On the surface, his second term should be part of an all-but-perfect scenario for Democrats.
Democrats now have firm control over both chambers of the state legislature--including an overwhelming majority in the Senate. At the same time, a divided and defeated state GOP appears to stand little chance of offering much serious opposition.
But the specter of scandal still hangs heavy over Blagojevich and his administration. When political insider Stuart Levine pleaded guilty last month to corruption charges, his attorney said it could take two years for his client to fulfill his agreement to cooperate with federal prosecutors.
The Levine-related indictment of Blagojevich friend and fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko will continue an unwelcome focus on the governor's administration, as will a federal investigation into what U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald has referred to as allegations of "endemic hiring fraud" in state government.
Blagojevich has not been accused of any wrongdoing. He said Tuesday's victory shows voters are more interested in issues that have a direct impact on their daily lives. "I think [Tuesday] night's results show that," Blagojevich said. "I mean people have the right perspective on some of the different kinds of things that happened."
Among voters who thought the issue of corruption and ethics in state government was very important, the National Election Pool exit survey of Illinois voters found 47 percent voted for Blagojevich and 40 percent backed Topinka. The poll was conducted Tuesday by Edison/Mitofsky.
The survey showed Blagojevich won handily among women, 53 percent to 36 percent, reflecting the success of the governor's efforts to promote social issues, such as making women and children's health care more available, and family issues, such as expanded preschool.
Blagojevich said the outcome of the balloting puts the "wind behind me" as he propels his vision for his second term--another increase in the minimum wage, universal health care, $100 million in funding for stem-cell research and providing all-day kindergarten and smaller school class sizes.
Blagojevich's plan to fund his education initiative calls for selling or leasing the state lottery, but it has met with little support so far.
Though many Democrats in the legislature may share the governor's vision, getting his agenda passed might prove difficult. Although he works closely with Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago), Blagojevich and House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) have never been particularly close. Madigan is also renowned for being more focused on political issues that affect his Democratic majority than any legislation that would benefit the governor.
"This doesn't mean he has a mandate," argued state Rep. Jack Franks, a Woodstock Democrat who has been critical of Blagojevich. "He'll try to get his agenda passed, but we need to know who we're dealing with. How legitimate are these federal investigations? Will he keep his word?"
But Democratic state Sen. James DeLeo of Chicago, who joined the governor in Jefferson Park, said he thinks Blagojevich will focus on pushing his agenda, starting with the minimum wage next week in the fall veto session.
"I don't think any of these investigations touch the governor," he said.
"I think when friends betray trust, it not only hurts you personally, it hurts you politically. But you can't control somebody else's actions, and if somebody has financial problems, sometimes people walk on the dark side, and Gov. Blagojevich has always been one that's led a very open life."
Voting troubles mar Kane County Clerk Cunningham's re-election - Kate Hawley
Kane County Clerk John "Jack" Cunningham won re-election by a comfortable margin, even as the voting process he oversees experienced widespread problems.
Cunningham, an Aurora Republican, garnered 57 percent of the vote Tuesday to trump Democratic challenger Annie Collins of Batavia.
He acknowledged voting problems after calls Tuesday about polls opening late and malfunctioning voting machine flooded an election hot line set up by the Kane County State's Attorney.
"This election certainly doesn't, to me, adequately show the quality of this office," he said. "All of this is a work in progress."
Only 136 of the county's 223 precincts began voting on time, at 6 a.m., Jay Bennett, chief deputy county clerk, said Wednesday. Sixty-four precincts opened between 6:01 and 6:30 a.m., eight opened between 6:30 and 7 a.m. and 12 opened between 7 and 10:35 a.m. Specifics on the remaining three precincts are unknown.
Some election judges didn't know how to power up the voting machines, and the 50 technicians on hand struggled to keep up with various requests for help, Cunningham said.
"The major issue was a human issue, not a machine issue," said Kane County Board member Gerald Jones, a Democrat who headed the committee that searched out and recommended the switch from punch cards to the eSlate electronic voting system.
Human error would explain why this election was mired in confusion even though the March primary, when the new machines debuted, ran relatively smoothly, Jones said.
"If the people had been appropriately trained and were at a level of comfort with the equipment, we wouldn't have had these issues," he said.
Bennett agreed, saying, "They can only do what they are taught."
Kane County's pool of election judges has shrunk in recent years. In the three months before Tuesday's election, Cunningham said 1,200 election judges participated in four-hour training sessions in groups of 30. "We modeled it after seminars in graduate-level courses," he said.
Cunningham promised to redouble his efforts to recruit and train technology-savvy election judges. Future training will emphasize how to set up voting machines, he said.
Collins, a Batavia homemaker making her first bid for public office, accused the clerk of making hollow promises and said she would consider challenging the election results.
She repeated the accusation she made throughout the campaign that David Bruun, Cunningham's director of elections, is a patronage hire unfit for his post. Bruun is a disbarred lawyer who served prison time for financial crimes more than two decades ago.
"Look, he hired his friend," Collins said. "His friend is a felon. And we had one of the biggest snafus in the country yesterday."
Cunningham defended Bruun and took responsibility for the election mishaps.
He declined to say what Bruun's role in the election was beyond praising him for securing $2.8 million in grants, successfully handling early voting and offering valuable legal expertise.
Bruun kept a low profile Tuesday and in the election aftermath.
He did not appear in court when the state's attorney petitioned a judge to keep polls open later because of the late start. Circuit Judge F. Keith Brown extended voting hours countywide to 8:30 p.m.
Bennett said 1,124 votes were cast during the extended hours. Any votes cast after 7 p.m. are considered provisional and can be challenged up to 14 days after the election.
The clerk's office is determining whether the provisional votes would change the outcome of any Kane County races, Bennett said.
Kejellander: Doing the honorable thing - Kent Frederick, Downers Grove
Considering how poorly the GOP did in Illinois, Bob Kjellander should do the honorable thing and resign as RNC Treasurer and Committeeman.
Topinka: Bad nomination - Hank Parson, Arlington Heights
The first thought that came to mind when I started hearing stations call the governor’s race to Rod Blagojevich was Ron Gidwitz, Bill Brady and even Jim Oberweis would have beat him.
I point my finger at the Republican voters of Illinois who so irresponsibly voted in the March 21 primary for Judy Baar Topinka. These Republicans did not do their research for that primary, they simply went for the candidate with whom they had the greatest name recognition. If you have not done your research for all the candidates and thought about the race, then you should stay away from the polls.