By Jamey Dunn
President Obama said at a Washington, D.C., news conference yesterday that a new Republican majority in the U.S. Congress means: “No one party will be able to dictate where we go from here.” But that does not seem to be the case in Illinois.
After speculation that the Illinois House could come under Republican control, it remains in the Democrats hands. The Associated Press this evening called Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn as the winner of the governor’s race. However, Bill Brady said today that he plans to wait for all the votes to be counted before he decides on concession.
While Republicans did not gain a majority in the House, they did unseat some long-time incumbents, such as Rep. Michael Smith, a 16 year veteran of the General Assembly from Canton; Rep. Jay Hoffman, who hails from Collinsville and has spent 20 years in the legislature; and Rep. Robert Flider;,who is from Mt. Zion and held his seat for eight years. Grayslake Sen. Michael Bond and Carlinville Sen. Deanna Demuzio were the only Democrats to lose their seats in the Senate.
But control of both the legislative chambers and the governor’s office will give Democrats almost all the cards when it comes to redrawing legislative districts. Republicans may be able to use votes on issues such as a tax increase or borrowing as leverage in the redistricting process.
Quinn also has to sign off on the map, and there are no guarantees that he will play ball with the legislative leaders. Even though Democrats appear to hold all the power on the remap, the issue will likely hang over any big votes that come up.
Senate President John Cullerton dodged a question about Democrats having the power to draw a partisan map, saying: “I think that’s kind of insider stuff. I think most people just care about the economy, and they care about what we’re going to do for our budget deficit.”
Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno said she is not concerned that the Democrats in her chamber will treat Republicans unfairly during the redistricting process. While her party did not gain as many seats as her projection last week of three to five, Radogno framed the election results as a victory. “It’s a win because we have more seats than we had before the election.”
She added that taking away the Democrats’ veto-proof supermajority gives her party more leverage.
Radogno also commented on Democrats keeping power at the state level while Republicans took control of the Illinois’ congressional delegation, gaining four seats with a fifth race still undecided. Republican Mark Kirk also won the close race against Democrat Alexi Giannoulias for Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat.
“The fact is, it is curious that there seems to be a lot of hopscotching between parties when you look at how the Statehouse did versus how [the U.S.] Congress did. That’s an interesting phenomenon. … I think there’s going to be a lot of analyzing of numbers going forward and looking to see why it came out the way it did,” she said.
Sen. John Sullivan, a Democrat from Rushville, said Senate Democrats are disappointed with the loss of two races. “It could have been worse. We had six seats that were competitive races. In theory, we could have lost all six of them, but we didn’t.”
However, he painted the results more as a wake-up call than a win. “It’s a tough environment out there. People are dissatisfied both at the state and federal level. The economy is still just barely chugging along,” Sullivan said. “I think that [this election] has sent a message to all of us here in Springfield — and I’m sure in Washington as well — that our focus needs to be on creating jobs. The economy is driving so much of the discussion that’s taking place right now."