Skip to main content


The Election File Voting Guide: Down-ballot Illinois races

By now you are no doubt well aware of the policy and stylistic differences between Gov. Pat Quinn and state Sen. Bill Brady. And let’s just go out on a limb and say you’ve heard all you need to hear about state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias’ “mob loans” and Congressman Mark Kirk’s military record “lies.” But next Tuesday you’ll be asked to weigh-in on a bunch of other races, as well – ones you may have heard little – or nothing, perhaps – about. Our bad. We only have so much air time to cover so many contested offices. But let’s try to make up for it now, with this quick guide to some down-ballot races on the state level.
We’ve listed the candidates in alphabetical order, and included links to their campaign websites, money filings with the Illinois State Board of Elections and any endorsements they received from the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times or Daily Herald.
Attorney General
Two-term incumbent Democrat Lisa Madigan opted last summer not to run for the U.S. Senate, or for governor. The daughter of Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan cited family concerns and a love for her current office. Republican Joe Birkett, the state’s attorney of DuPage County, originally planned to challenge her, but then thought better of it. Madigan destroyed her challengers in a recent Chicago Tribune poll, and has swept the Chicago-area newspaper endorsements.
Secretary of State

Democrat Jesse White has been Secretary of State since 1999, when then-incumbent George Ryan ascended to the governor’s mansion. He’s running this year for a fourth term, and has said it would likely to be his last one. A recent Chicago Tribune poll found White more than 50 percentage points ahead of his closest challenger.
Note: The Green Party’s slated candidate, Adrian Frost, withdrew from the race.
When Dan Hynes challenged Pat Quinn for the Democratic nomination for governor, he created a vacancy in the office that cuts the checks for the state of Illinois. This is an especially difficult job right now, what with the state’s checking account approaching dangerously low balances. The race to succeed Hynes is marked by the political return of Republican Judy Baar Topinka, who is a former state treasurer and 2006 Blagojevich casualty. She leads in the recent Tribune poll by more than 30 points.
In 2006, Judy Baar Topinka left the treasurer’s office in favor of a campaign for governor. Four years later, her successor, Democrat Alexi Giannoulias picked a campaign for the U.S. Senate over another four years as treasurer. With the office again up for grabs, Republican state Sen. Dan Rutherford is locked in a tight race against Democrat Robin Kelly, according to the recent Chicago Tribune poll. Kelly is the de-facto incumbent in this election, since she’s served as Giannoulias’ chief of staff.
Illinois General Assembly
Democrats currently hold a 37 to 22 majority in the Illinois Senate. Republicans expect to narrow that gap, but even in their wildest dreams don’t imagine taking control of the chamber. GOP leaders are dreaming, though, of grabbing the Speaker’s gavel from Mike Madigan in the Illinois House. It won’t be easy; they would need to pick up a net of 12 seats.
If you don’t know who represents you in the legislature, plug your address into the state board of elections’ website. Most candidates for the legislature will have a website. You can also see who’s funding their campaigns here, and read who the newspapers are endorsing (Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Daily Herald).
Still to come
This is the third installment of our general election voting guides. Here are the others:

Get the WBEZ App

Download the best live and on-demand public radio experience. Find out more.