Illinois primary voters pick candidates for governor, Senate

CHICAGO Tue Mar 18, 2014 5:48pm EDT

Republican candidate for governor of Illinois Bruce Rauner prepares to speak at a public forum at the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois March 4, 2014. REUTERS/Terrence Antonio James/Pool

Republican candidate for governor of Illinois Bruce Rauner prepares to speak at a public forum at the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois March 4, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Terrence Antonio James/Pool

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CHICAGO (Reuters) - Illinois Republicans are voting on Tuesday to pick a candidate to challenge a Democratic incumbent governor they say is weak enough to give their party a shot at taking back an office long held by Democrats.

Four Republicans are running in Tuesday's primary election for a chance to unseat Governor Pat Quinn, who is viewed as honest but not forceful in a state whose prior governor is in prison for corruption.

"Illinois will be one of the primary focuses of traditional Republican groups and groups that are interested in conservative economic policy," said Kent Redfield, emeritus professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Springfield. "This is an opportunity to flip a state from Democrat to Republican."

Turnout appeared light as of midafternoon on Tuesday, despite the sunny weather, compared with the last two elections, which saw turnouts of 23 percent to 24 percent, according to Illinois State Board of Elections assistant executive director Jim Tenuto.

"It just seems to be a lack of interest, a lack of excitement," Tenuto said.

An absence of big contests on the Democratic side seemed to be curbing enthusiasm, according to election officials.

Voters in the home state of President Barack Obama have chosen a Democratic governor in every election since 2002. But this year Republicans see the possibility of victory.

The Republican front-runner ahead of Tuesday's primary was wealthy venture capitalist Bruce Rauner, a political neophyte who has poured $6 million of his own money into the campaign. Those funds as well as millions in private donations have paid for a blitz of radio and TV ads that have helped push him past three more experienced opponents.

According to a recent Chicago Tribune poll, Rauner is 13 points ahead of his closest rival, State Senator Kirk Dillard, who had served as chief of staff with popular former Republican Governor Jim Edgar.

Rauner has steered clear of social issues and focused on Illinois' troubled economy. He has also criticized other lawmakers, including Dillard, for taking union money.

Whoever wins Tuesday is expected to face a tough and expensive contest against Quinn in November, who despite low popularity ratings and Illinois' continuing fiscal problems will have strong union support.

"Quinn wasn't expected to win last time, but the groundswell of support from labor unions and regular folks who like him sort of surprised people," said Dick Simpson, a political science professor at University of Illinois-Chicago and a former Chicago alderman.

Quinn is expected to win the Democratic primary handily - his only challenger on Tuesday is Tio Hardiman, a former leader of a Chicago anti-violence group who was dismissed after being arrested for domestic battery. That charge was later dropped.

A few Chicago-area voters who usually vote Democratic said they were taking a Republican ballot to vote against Rauner. Though Rauner is polling well among Republicans, he has stirred controversy because of his strong anti-union rhetoric and other issues, like pulling strings to get his daughter into a competitive Chicago high school.

Victoria Beal, 46, a Chicagoan who usually votes Democratic, went for Dillard on Tuesday. "It's not so much a protest vote as a pro-union vote," she said.

In the race for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senator from Illinois, state Senator Jim Oberweis, a multimillionaire dairyman, is running against businessman and political newcomer Doug Truax.

The winner of that contest will have the imposing task of taking on U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat, who has served in that body for 17 years.

Oberweis is better known and better funded, and was leading Truax by 52 to 15 percent in a February Chicago Tribune poll, though the Tribune endorsed Truax. Durbin is favored in the November general election.

In one controversial Chicago contest, Democrat Isaac "Ike" Carothers, a former Chicago alderman who served prison time for bribery and tax fraud, is running for commissioner of the Cook County Board, which handles the court system and healthcare for the Chicago metropolitan area. He is likely to win, Simpson said.

(Editing by Sharon Bernstein, Lisa Shumaker and Matthew Lewis)

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Comments (4)
Jill_Again wrote:
Before Rauner criticizes anyone for taking union money, he should take a step back and question his own $6 million contribution. If he can’t raise it legitimately from at least some element of the population he wants to represent, he has no high ground.

Elections really should not go to the highest bidder, Citizens United notwithstanding.

Mar 18, 2014 6:50am EDT  --  Report as abuse
FRPSR wrote:
Aside from what the meaning of representative is finally defined as , which Jill__Again has neatly summarized , doesn’t it mean something when a party , its ersatz nominees , rumbling and bumbling about , go about presenting and supporting , almost anything but their own views ?
What these candidates expect should be among the most detailed presentations of our most serious issues . Addressing these issues through an impressive confidence cultivated through their deep comprehension of them ; or should these matters be limited to only those whose proven sales value of provocative and speculative nature stimulates emotional reactions , and profits ?
Naturally the cost of incubating nothing beyond a promotion of fear , uncertainty , and doubt , may leave little room for anything resembling productive representation .
Why this is done , including a gratuitous spirit of menace , leaving other sunnier , plain and obviously more practical matters to take care of themselves , while prominent political advocates exercising diligently ad infinitum in the “if it bleeds it leads” speculative gymnastics dominated by an imported experts agenda . As for who is paying for time to run out , Citizens United , forbids our insight into those who might benefit from buying enough representatives to run specious campaigns of personal attacks concerning uncertainties of which many intelligent people have little , or no interest at all .
The desire for representatives whose paycheck depends on their comprehensive intimacy being as remote in the cold and distant professionalism admired by martinets is where this singular confidence exudes . It is only rarely if ever on the very same matters which intelligent people find are extremely hot and dangerously close to choking the very life out of our republic . Where any mention at all , is often only as a joke .
Rather than a coherent , modest policy of what may be expected of them should they be elected , now another round of “Mailing it in” composed of wildly exaggerated claims , about what is feared , as they perceive it , blah , blah , blah .
Developements concerning opponents may be missing out in terms of policy , but the rich demonstrations found in the fine arts of bullying , name calling , and finger pointing , developed in playgrounds across American schoolyards up to and including elections of high officials never end .
We are no longer in grammar school , or high school Toto , but you might never know it .

Mar 18, 2014 12:00pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
SunnyDaySam wrote:
“conservative economic policy”

Just like back in the bush/GOP ‘lost decade’. With the same result.

Mar 18, 2014 2:05pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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