It was a long and tough night for Democrats in Illinois, but with results in two important races still too close to call, some are hanging on to hope.
In the race for President Obama's former Senate seat, Republican Congressman Mark Kirk emerged victorious. With 99 percent of the vote counted, Kirk had 48 percent to Democrat Alexi Giannoulias' 46 percent.
"A tsunami just hit the heartland," Kirk exclaimed in his Tuesday night victory speech. Meanwhile, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele was touting the importance of Kirk's win.
"When President Obama's home state rejects the past 18 months of his presidency and elects Mark Kirk, a fiscal conservative, to his old Senate seat, it should send shock waves through the White House," Steele told the Associated Press.
Giannoulias, who took more than 76 percent of the Chicago vote, gave a gracious and emotional concession speech.
"I think he will make a good senator. I think he will make a strong senator," Giannoulias said. "He will help a lot of people."
Another surprise loss for Democrats happened in Illinois's Tenth Congressional District, which covers many of Chicago's affluent North Shore suburbs. Though Kirk represented the district for five terms, the Tenth has a Cook PVI rating of D+6, indicating a significant blue streak. Also, it was predicted that Kirk survived in the area due to his moderate views on issues such as abortion and gay rights--issues which he moved to the right on since running for Senate.
Dan Seals, a Democrat who lost to Kirk in the district twice, picked up endorsements from former Kirk supporters--and the White House. First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden both came to the area to support Seals--but that was apparently not enough.
The winner, instead, was Republican Robert Dold, a Winnetka native and president of his family's pest control company. Dold worked as an investigative counsel for the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee under President George H.W. Bush before returning to the Tenth.
Though he was painted as far to the right of the electorate in the district, accused of opposing abortion rights and seeking to privatize Social Security, he was victorious in tying Seals to Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and ill-liked Washington Democrats.
The Democratic carnage was widespread in Illinois. Republican challenger Randy Hultgren ousted Rep. Bill Foster in the 14th District and Rep. Debbie Halvorson was (as predicted) easily defeated by newcomer Adam Kinzinger in the 11th District.
Kinzinger, a Republican and a member of the Air National Guard, launched a relentless bombing campaign on Halvorson's record, with the help of the National Republican Congressional Committee. He opposes healthcare and derides cap-and-trade as "job-killing."
Kinzinger's win will put him right where Halvorson was two years ago: a first-term Congressman riding his party's big gains into Washington.
Republican Bobby Schilling defeated two-term Democratic Congressman Phil Hare in Illinois' 17th district, and with 99 percent of precincts reporting in the Eighth District, Tea Party candidate Joe Walsh led Democratic incumbent Melissa Bean by less than 800 votes.
Walsh's lead was not predicted--especially since the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee did not throw extra cash at Bean, thinking she could handle him. The Daily Herald reports on why they may have thought that:
[Walsh's] campaign manager quit, then sued him for $20,000 in nonpayment. The national GOP considered his campaign a dead loss and refused to fund it; a former Eagles guitarist threatened to sue for copyright infringement over a song on Walsh's website.
Further, the 8th congressional candidate was criticized for not disclosing his Evanston condominium had gone into foreclosure, and two top-level staffers quit, claiming an exodus of volunteers went with them.
As of Wednesday morning, one glimmer of hope remains: the Illinois governor's race. Though all the polls said otherwise--expert Nate Silver giving Republican Bill Brady a nearly 87 percent chance of winning--Governor Pat Quinn somehow survived.
Though the race is still considered too close to call, Quinn was leading by 8,349 votes early Wednesday morning. Though some precincts still need to be counted, the Capitol Fax Blog reports that those numbers will be coming from Quinn-friendly Cook County and the City of Chicago.
"The people have won, and I believe we have won," Quinn told supporters Tuesday night, hoping to have some concrete news sometime today.
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