Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Wrap-up Wednesday

By Bethany Jaeger and Patrick O'Brien
The surprise on Super Duper Tuesday in Illinois was at the state level, not the national level. Illinois still played a significant role February 5 by doling out more than 200 presidential delegates to the Democratic and Republican candidates, but the state got lost in the mix of 22 states that held primaries that day. I’ll repeat this point made by Kent Redfield, political scientist at the University of Illinois at Springfield, for a previous blog. “There’s a certain irony in the fact that we moved our primary up so we could be a major player, and now states that didn’t move actually may be more important than Illinois. If we’d have stuck to mid-March, we might have been this huge battleground all by ourselves instead of one of all of these other states.”

National view
Illinois Democrats were predictable in electing Barack Obama, former state senator and current U.S. senator of Chicago. But Obama is still in a tight race against U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York to win enough delegates nationwide to secure the Party nomination. (See more at the Associated Press’s “Delegate Tracker” here.) By Wednesday morning, Clinton had fewer than 100 delegates more than Obama, heightening the importance of the next round of primary elections throughout this month and next (other states have primaries scheduled through June for Democrats and July for Republicans).

Republicans in a dozen states nominated U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona. He already has half of the GOP delegates needed to win the nomination over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

State view
The state-level surprise was that Senate Democrats fared better than expected, and Gov. Rod Blagojevich could still have some allies to replace those who vacated their seats to work for him.

Senate Democratic incumbents — particularly assistant majority leaders Iris Martinez and Ricky Hendon, both of Chicago — withstood challenges that had potential to significantly alter the chamber.

Martinez’s leadership position sparked controversy within the Latino Caucus because Senate President Emil Jones Jr. selected her over fellow Latino Sen. Tony Munoz to serve in Jones’ cabinet. The disagreement affected the entire chamber, sometimes preventing such major legislation as the governor’s health care plan from advancing.

Martinez received a lot of money from Senate Democrats, including four separate $40,000 donations and a $100,000 check from the Illinois Senate Democratic Fund. (We're having a hard time with the State Board of Elections Web site linking to the wrong page. I hope it works for you.) She ended up winning more than half the vote over state Rep. Rich Bradley, who vacated his House seat so Chicago Ald. Dick Mell’s daughter, Deborah Mell, who also is the governor’s sister-in-law, could run. Mell is uncontested in that race.

Martinez’s likelihood of staying put won’t change the Senate dynamic much, but it will deepen tensions that likely will affect this spring’s negotiations or lack thereof.

Hendon, a former West Side Chicago alderman and Party committeeman, is a rather outspoken senator called “Hollywood Hendon” because of his flashy suits and quick quips. He’s also a licensed producer and writer. He’s become a point person on gaming negotiations and gained a last-minute sponsorship of the Chicago-area mass transit legislation because he was in an intense race against Chicago Democrat AmySue Mertens, an experienced community advocate who had the backing of AFSCME Council 31. A third candidate, Jonathan Singh Bedi, had potential to be a spoiler if it turned out to be a close race. That wasn’t the case. Hendon won more than 60 percent of the vote, according to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. The $17,000 donation January 31 from the Senate president probably didn’t hurt.

In the Illinois House, two successful candidates backed by Blagojevich could place more emphasis on the dynamics of the governor’s relationship with House Speaker Michael Madigan, as the governor held onto the seat of a former ally and gained another probable supporter.

Blagojevich ally Patti Hahn of Centralia won the democratic primary for Rep. Kurt Granberg’s seat in the 107th District. Granberg, a Carlyle Democrat, vacated his seat and could pop up in the Blagojevich Administration. Hahn defeated Travis Loyd by twenty points in the historically Democratic district. Democratic Rep. Jay Hoffman, a key Blagojevich ally in the House, contributed to Hahn’s campaign.

Will Burns, a former aide to the Senate president, won the primary in the 26th District on Chicago’s South Side with 33 percent of the vote in a five-way race. Incumbent Rep. Elga Jeffries, who was appointed to the seat in 2007, finished a distant fourth with 12 percent. Burns also was an Obama staffer at one point, and Obama won more than 90 percent of the vote in that district in 2004. The victory means another potential supporter to the Blagojevich-Jones alliance next year. Burns received significant financial support from Senate Democrats allied with Jones and from contributors with strong ties to Jones, including utility giant Commonwealth Edison.

(And follow-up from January)
House District 44 Democratic incumbent Rep. Fred Crespo will face Republican Margaret “Peggy” Brothman in November to serve the northwest suburbs of Chicago.

House District 56 Schaumburg Rep. Paul Froehlich, who switched from a Republican to a Democrat last year, won the Democratic nomination despite fierce opposition from John Moynihan. He’ll now face Schaumburg Republican Anita Forte-Scott, who was unopposed in the primary.

House District 92 Because Republican state Rep. Aaron Schock vacated his seat to run — and ultimately win — a GOP nomination for Congress, the west-central Illinois seat was vacant. Now Peoria Democrat Jehan Gordon will face Peoria Republican Cindy Ardis Jenkins. Gordon won the primary with financial help from Senate Democrats and Hoffman despite a controversy regarding whether she actually graduated from the University of Illinois as stated in campaign literature. The district leaned Republican by fewer than 300 votes in 2004 and was competitive in 2006.

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