The fallout: 2010 elections, one week later

November 8, 2010

The attack ads on TV have disappeared. Campaigns are wrapping up their operations. Pundits and columnists have already moved on to the next big thing. And political reporters like me have started catching up on their sleep. So with the exhaustion beginning to wear off, here are a few final thoughts on what we saw last week:

Would Dillard have done better?

State Sen. Bill Brady's concession speech on Friday formally wrapped up the governor's race that appeared all-but-settled Tuesday night. It was a tough loss for state GOPers, indeed. Nearly all signs pointed in their direction during the campaign. It's not every election that Republicans will be handed an ethics scandal from a Democratic governor, a budget mess occurring under the watch of a Democratic-controlled government, an unpopular Democratic incumbent and an unfavorable national mood toward Democrats. But even all those factors didn't add up to enough votes for Brady.

Some Republicans say if the runner-up in the primary, state Sen. Kirk Dillard, had been the nominee, the outcome would have been different. Dillard may have been able to win more votes in the Chicago suburbs than Brady, who - after all - had a lot of catching up to do. He finished the primary with just 5-percent support in suburban Cook, beating only DuPage County Board Chair Bob Schillerstrom, who'd already pulled out of the race. But Dillard, dogged in the primary for his decision to appear in a commercial for President Obama, may have had a harder time winning over conservatives downstate than Brady did. I'm not suggesting they would've voted for Quinn over Dillard, but maybe some wouldn't have turned out, or perhaps more of them may have supported a third party or independent candidate, like Scott Lee Cohen or Libertarian Lex Green.

At the end of this, though, the Illinois Republican Party picked up a handful of seats in the Illinois House and Senate, flipped three or four congressional seats, took the president's former U.S. Senate seat and snagged two constitutional offices. That's not a bad result for the new state party chair, Pat Brady - just 15 months into the job - to add to his political resume.

Lisa Madigan is no longer the state's top vote-getter.

In 2006, Lisa Madigan led all other statewide candidates by getting 2,521,113 votes in her re-election bid for attorney general. This year, Madigan still demolished her opponents, but her total dropped slightly. That allowed the 2002 top vote getter, Secretary of State Jesse White, to reclaim his crown. White this year received 2,558,671 votes and counting.

Could Madigan have been hurt slightly by voter association with her father, House Speaker Mike Madigan, who was on the receiving end of relentless Republican and editorial attacks this past year? Perhaps. But she still bested her GOP opponent, attorney Steve Kim, by more than 30 points. What politician could be unhappy with a win like that?

Still no Asian-American elected official in state government.

Steve Kim was often introduced by other Republicans as the first Asian American statewide candidate in Illinois. He would've, indeed, made history if he'd convinced a few hundred thousand more Illinoisans to support him.

Also eying history was Hamilton Chang, the Republican candidate for the Illinois House in the North Suburban 17th District. In a list on his campaign website of ten reasons for voters to support him, Chang included diversity: "I stand to be the first Asian American in the Illinois Legislature, which represents not only a big step for the Asian community but also for our State. Diversifying our state government will bring new voices and ideas to the table." It didn't happen; Chang lost to Democrat Daniel Biss by about 4,000 votes, or 10-percent.

The judges all survived.

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Thomas Kilbride faced an onslaught of negative ads from some of the state's business groups. Kilbride needed to get the support of 60-percent of voters in the Third Judicial District (includes, in its eastern nook, Will and Kankakee counties) to keep his seat; he got 66-percent.

Before the election, we wrote that a handful of judges in Cook County were being targeted for defeat by lawyers' groups. None appear to have gotten lower than 63-percent, continuing an undefeated streak that the Chicago Appleseed for Justice says goes back to 1990.

The most Republican nook in a Democratic county.

It's no surprise that Democrats won big in Cook County - as a whole. But, as usual, there were parts of Cook that were more red than blue. We took a look at unofficial returns from the Cook County Clerk, who oversees elections in suburban areas of the county, to find the Republicans.

In 2008, Barrington Township was one of just three Cook townships that favored Republican presidential nominee John McCain over Democrat Barack Obama. This year, again, Barrington residents turned out for the GOP. Close to 70-percent of voters in the township voted for Bill Brady, and nearly 72-percent voted for Mark Kirk, providing those Republicans with their largest percentages in suburban Cook. Barrington was also the only township to vote for Republican Angel Garcia over Democratic incumbent David Orr in the contest for Cook County Clerk, and to favor Frederick Collins over Tom Dart in the race for sheriff.

The most Republican section of Chicago was the 41st Ward, according to early numbers tallied by the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. The 41st was the only ward won by Kirk, who took close to 52-percent of the vote there. It also delivered the highest percentage in the city to Brady, with 45-percent of the vote for the Republican. Quinn still won the ward, though. No Chicago ward abandoned the hometown governor.