|J.B. Pritzker,celebrates winning the Democratic gubernatorial primary with lieutenant governor candidate Juliana Stratton. It is now his race to lose against unpopular Governor Bruce Rauner in a deep Blue state during a Democratic wave election.|
Well the results are in for the Illinois Primary except for some squeaker local races here and there. If you are a local or a political animal, you know how at least the top-of-the-ticket marquee races turned out. In this post I once again pretend to be a pundit and try and explain what it means. I will bore down threw the ballot narrowing as I go through the Congressional races in my neck of the woods to the nitty-gritty of McHenry County races in subsequent posts. And I will do it through the biased lens of a partisan progressive Democrat, just so you know what to expect.
Governor and Lt. Governor
I know some progressive were heart broken when billionaire J.B. Pritzker romped to victory in the Democratic contest with at last report 45.10 % of the total vote almost 20 points ahead of left darling State Representative Daniel Biss with 26.22%, a hair ahead of liberal nostalgia candidate Chris Kennedy at 24.64%. It confirmed for them all their charges that the winner bought the election with his unprecedented $53 million primary war chest and two years of relentless TV advertising.
But those progressives are not nearly as disappointed as both the winner and looser on the Republican side. And for good reason. Incumbent Governor Bruce Rauner, another billionaire who mismanaged the state to financial catastrophe with his 2 ½ year budgetless stand-off with the Democratic legislature, held on by a DuPage County eyelash over previously obscure movement conservative State Representative Jeannie Ives by 51.7 to 48.3%.
|Deeply unpopular Governor Bruce Rauner barely beat back a challenge from the far right of the Republican Party by State Rep Jeannie Ives. He will struggle to win over her supporters in November.|
Ives, who did well Downstate and dominated the GOP vote-rich collar counties, represented the deep bitterness of hard core conservatives who felt that Rauner abandoned them on their key holy social issues—abortion, opposition to LSBGT rights, and guns—and in the end “caved” to Speaker Michael Madigan and Democrats to end the budget impasse. Her comments in defeat were not only far from gracious, she continued to savage Rauner and held out no olive branch for reconciliation or party unity in November.
Many of her supporters will not hold their noses to vote for Rauner, despite his pleas in his victory statement. There is already talk about undertaking the nearly impossible task of fielding an independent candidate or turning to the Libertarian Party whose activist nominee Kash Johnson could conceivably be persuaded to withdraw to allow a better-known politico to take his spot. But I wouldn’t hold my breath for either eventuality. More likely, many Ives voters will feel undermotivated to vote in November or be willing to leave the Governor’s race blank on their ballots or write in Ives or make some other protest vote.
Rauner can’t afford a single defection from Republican ranks. The vote totals in the two primaries tell the tail. Illinois has been tending deeper blue over the last several election cycles and that process has been accelerated by Donald Trump imploding presidency and Rauner’s own unpopularity. But the primary numbers are staggering. All Democrats, including the single digit three also-rans, got 771,819 votes as of the most recent numbers. Rauner and Ives together got only 3018,791, significantly less than half of the Democratic votes cast. While primary turn out is significantly lighter than in the General Election, that is a mighty deep hole for Rauner to dig himself out of, especially as the disparity reflects a high degree of Democratic passion and commitment.
That passion and commitment will build as progressives lay some of their distaste for a money-bags aside and discover that Pritzger’s platform is nearly as progressive as Biss, differing more in detail than in substance.
That’s good for progressives up and down the ticket. But it is not the end of the silver lining to Biss’s loss. Biss and Kennedy voters taken together topped Pritzker by 46,150 votes. If progressives and liberals had fielded a single candidate, they might have won. At any rate, it shows the potential for future races.
Also, since progressives are highly motivated to beat Rauner—and the Trump agenda—this fall, they will almost unanimously support the ticket in the fall and will be moved to hit the bricks in support of the many down ballot progressives who won on Tuesday. Dems in general will not have to fret about a disunited party to the degree that has the Governor is sweating bullets about his.
Polls taken before the end of 2017 showed Rauner losing to a generic Democrat by as much as 20%. A February poll by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University showed Pritzker besting the Governor by 15 points. No one expects those margins to hold up in a hot general election. Rauner will close part of that gap. But any way you slice it, those are long odds to overcome.
But Democrats cannot be over confident. They still must inspire a big turnout from all their base voters and be able to reap disgusted independents and Republicans. Rauner has one long shot chance—to keep doing what he has been doing, running mostly against Mike Madigan, a figure who has been so effectively demonized, not entirely without cause, that he is widely despised across much of Down State and the vote-rich Collar Counties. He needs to convince enough voters in both regions who are otherwise going against Republicans as a protest to Donald Trump, to split their ballots for him. It’s a long shot but not impossible.
The Democratic race for Attorney General turned into a two-candidate sprint to the finish line after pulling way ahead of a crowded pack. That field of five included two with progressive support, Aaron Goldstein and Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering and three former prosecutors who pledged to root out corruption—an implicit slap at Mike Madigan. Only one, Sharon Fairley barely broke out of the single digits.
|Kwame Raoul over came former Governor Pat Quinn's name recognition to win the Attorney General nomination.|
State Senator Kwame Raoul, who had the backing of most organization Democrats as well as solid support in the Black community, nosed out former Governor Pat Quinn in a surprisingly tight race. Quinn, who has appeared on ballots for assorted offices for more than thirty years with mixed results, had few ardent fans but benefited chiefly from simple name recognition.
Other candidates in the field tried to tag Raoul as Madigan’s pick, a claim that was undercut when TV spots by a Republican PAC absurdly leveled the same charge against Quinn who as those with actual memories recall was at constant odds with the Speaker during his spell as Governor.
In his victory speech Raoul highlighted his family’s roots as Haitian immigrants and pledged to protect the immigrant community form Trump’s deportation frenzy. He hopes to broaden his support with increasingly important Latino voters for whom immigration is a key issue. In some parts of the country Haitian and Latino immigrant communities have been at odds. But the much smaller number of Haitians in Illinois as given them more reason to seek allies.
|Erika Harold will be an attractive and formitable opponent--the Republican's best shot at winning state-wide office in November.|
This fall Raoul will face probably the toughest state-wide race against former Miss America and Harvard Law School graduate Erika Harold in November.
Harold will make a very attractive candidate in TV spots. A lot of white voters will see the lightly sepia candidate of mixed White, Black, and Native American heritage and compare her to a big, scary looking Black man with a shaved head and vote against him while congratulating themselves on not being racist. I’ll take flack for that statement, but it is the truth.
Harold will also distance herself from unpopular Trump and Rauner by claiming to be independent and even essentially non-partisan. But social conservatives and former Ives supporters who cannot stomach Rauner, know that she is stridently anti-abortion and an opponent of LBGT rights and flock to her side. Meanwhile she will let PACs fund attack ads tying Raoul to Madigan with out personally getting her supposed non-partisan hands dirty.
Raoul will have to rack up huge margins in the Black and Latino communities and other Democratic strongholds to overcome Harold’s appeal.
Other Constitutional Officers
|Secretary of State Jesse White, Treasurer Michael Frerichs, and Comptroller Susana Mendoza will all sail effortlessly to victory this November.|
Down ballot, the other popular Democratic state-wide offices holders who all ran un-opposed can relax. Their campaigns for re-election this fall will be almost as equally stress free. Secretary of State Jesse White, Comptroller Susana Mendoza, and Treasurer Michael Frerichs will face three Republican challengers—Jason Helland, Darlene Senger, and Jim Dodge respectively. The GOP trio are essentially sacrificial goats and place holders since no ambitious or promising pol would risk their reputations in a suicide mission. The most that the hapless Republicans can hope for is that they will get a line in their obituaries that reads “one-time candidate for…”