By Jamey Dunn
With neither candidate conceding in the governor’s race, Illinois legislators will return to Springfield tomorrow under a cloud of uncertainty.
Gov. Pat Quinn led Republican opponent Sen. Bill Brady by more than 16,000 votes this evening (numbers in the link will change as results are updated). Brady, who won the Republican primary by fewer than 200 votes, said that he wants to see the process through until a winner is certified by the Illinois State Board of Elections. The board has until December 3 to certify the results, though it could announce an official winner before then.
“Having been through this process before, I know the importance of making sure every voice is heard and every vote is counted. I believe we will win,” Brady said at a Bloomington news conference.
However, Quinn has said he is confident he won the race. “The Quinn [and Lt. Gov. nominee Sheila] Simon campaign wants every vote to be counted. We want to make sure the voice of every voter in the state of Illinois is duly counted and heard,” Mica Matsoff, a Quinn campaign spokesperson said in a written statement. “The ballots left to be counted appear mostly to come from Cook County, where the governor held a large margin over Senator Brady. We expect to hold our lead and may increase it. We do not see a path to victory for Bill Brady.”
Longtime Statehouse observers say it would be premature for Brady to concede early in such a close race, with absentee and military ballots still uncounted. “I think he owes it to himself and to his supporters to have all the votes be counted. … There are a lot of votes that have yet to be counted,” said Ron Michaelson, who was executive director of the Illinois State Board of Elections from 1976 to 2003. Michaelson added that if it becomes clear Brady is not the winner, he should step aside and not “hold out just to hold out.”
Kent Redfield, an emeritus professor at the University of Illinois Springfield and director of the Sunshine Project, said he doesn’t expect Brady to hold on until the certification deadline if votes start to stack up for Quinn. “I suspect that if the numbers continue to grow that we can expect a concession out of Brady over the next couple of days.”
Mike Lawrence, longtime journalist and former spokesman for then-Gov. Jim Edgar, was sympathetic to how hard it can be to give up on a close race. “He’s worked for this thing for eight years, and it’s hard to let go. … I can’t fault him at all.”
Meanwhile. the Illinois Senate is scheduled to return tomorrow — at Quinn’s request — to vote on $4 billion in borrowing so the state can make its required pension payment.
As for how the unsettled governor's race may affect the borrowing vote — and possibly the veto session — Lawrence said it might be hard to gauge. “One of the things I have learned through the years is that it is very difficult to predict what the legislature will do or not do.”
However, he added, “Quinn’s going to be somewhat distracted, and I think the members of the legislature will be as well.”
Lawrence, who is also a former director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, pointed to the 1982 governor’s race, when Republican candidate Jim Thompson led Adlai Stevenson III by a little more than 5,000 votes. Stevenson asked for a recount, which was denied by the Illinois Supreme Court and led to a rewrite of the law. “The people in the Statehouse did not focus on the state’s fiscal problems until the question of who was going to be governor was resolved,” Lawrence said. He thinks the legislature will not be interested in considering budget issues beyond pension borrowing until they know the winner of the race.
Redfield said that time is running out for the General Assembly to continue stalling on the budget crisis. “They’ve got to start taking some tough votes in order to do some of the short-term and long-term things that they need to do.’
He said he thinks the legislative leaders know something has to be done about the state’s budget woes. “[House Speaker Michael] Madigan and [Senate President John] Cullerton are very smart people, and they know that there’s a limit to how often you can finesse this situation. … They know that the state has to be in a lot better shape two years from now, when their members run for reelection.”
Cullerton spokesperson John Patterson said that regardless of the outcome of the race, Quinn is governor and continues to be governor through the coming session days.
Both Democratic leaders lost some seats to Republicans but hung onto control of their chambers. According to Sarah Wojcicki, a spokesperson for House Minority Leader Tom Cross, Republicans had claimed seven House seats with two races still unresolved as of this afternoon. Patterson said Democrats lost two seats with one race still to be decided. This means Cullerton has lost his super-majority and the ability to borrow without Republican votes. However, he repeatedly stated before the election that Democrats had no intention of passing pension borrowing on their own.
The Senate is scheduled to return to Springfield tomorrow at 1 p.m. Check back for information on the session, as well as more election analysis.