04/10/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Illinois Primary Results Show Local Political Machine 'Breaking Down'

After serving some 20 years as an elected leader of the obscure-but-jobs-rich Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, Terence O'Brien decided last year that the time was ripe to seek higher office, to run for county board president. So he lined up the longest list of endorsements from Democratic Party leaders of any of the four candidates in Tuesday's primary election.

Not so long ago, Mr. O'Brien would have had armies of precinct workers ringing doorbells and the backing of the party brass would have ensured a strong showing. Instead, Mr. O'Brien placed a distant second, 26 percentage points behind Alderman Toni Preckwinkle.

In doing so, Mr. O'Brien was one striking example of a major shift toward something new in Illinois Democratic politics: The end of the political machine has led to the primacy of the outsider candidate.

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