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Illinois Primary Election 2010: Voting Begins In Governor, US Senate, Local Races

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Voting is underway in the 2010 Illinois primaries, as locals battle the snow and head to their polling places to decide some closely-watched county, state and national races.

Perhaps the most dramatic contest is the Democratic race for governor. Incumbent governor Pat Quinn and Comptroller Dan Hynes have been locked in a dead heat for several weeks, after two months of relentless, and often harshly negative, campaigning. Hynes went after Quinn for his controversial prisoner-release program, and unveiled a late-game advertisement featuring beloved former mayor Harold Washington chastising Quinn for poor job performance. Quinn countered that Hynes's office ignored warning signs about the Burr Oak Cemetery tragedy.

Recent polls show the race within the margin of error, with a substantial portion of voters undecided.

On the Republican side, no candidate has emerged from the pack. Andy McKenna, Jim Ryan, Kirk Dillard and Bill Brady have all polled consistently in the mid- to high-teens, and Tea Partier Adam Andrzejewski has seen some late movement, after an endorsement by Polish freedom fighter Lech Walesa.

The other race receiving national attention is the U.S. Senate race, for the seat formerly held by Barack Obama--and more recently, the Rod Blagojevich-appointed Roland Burris, the least popular senator on record. The Democrats are in a three-way battle, with state treasurer Alexi Giannoulias leading throughout. But David Hoffman, a reformer and anti-corruption watchdog, hopes to give Giannoulias a run for his money. He has been aggressively charging Giannoulias with mismanagement and poor business decisions during his tenure as senior loan officer at Broadway Bank, a company owned by the Giannoulias family. And Cheryle Jackson, president of the Urban League and self-portrayed populist candidate, is still in the running as well.

Mark Kirk, a well-liked fifth-term congressman from the north suburbs, is running essentially unopposed in the Republican primary for Senate, with no opponent polling above 10% in that race. His popularity, pro-choice stance and wide name recognition--not to mention the relative weakness of his opponents--have caused some hand-wringing among Democrats (and excitement among Republicans) over the possibility of a Scott Brown-like win in a longtime blue state.

The biggest local election on the ballot in Cook County is Democratic primary for Cook County Board President. Second, perhaps, only to the mayor in terms of power, the position has been held since December 2006 by Todd Stroger, son of the longtime board president John Stroger. But an unpopular sales tax hike and some hiring scandals have pushed him to the brink of an early retirement. Toni Preckwinkle, an alderman from the South Side's 4th Ward, has emerged as the frontrunner in the race. Running as a reformer, she has beenpolling strongly leading up to the election.

For a complete breakdown of the governor's primaries, Senate primaries, and Cook County Board President's race, head to HuffPost Chicago's Guide To The Candidates.