With some races still in question days after the polls closed, Speaker Michael Madigan is on track to have as as many Democrats in the Illinois House as he has since the 1990s when Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker and lawmakers take office next year.
Madigan’s victories come despite millions of dollars in advertising fueled by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and GOP congressional candidates aimed at blaming most of the state’s ills on the longtime speaker, who called the tactic “a clear failure” in a post-election memo. The wins also follow a year in which his political and government organizations were beset by sexual harassment allegations, about which Madigan in September wrote he “didn’t do enough.”
Democrats won at least 71 seats in the Illinois House in Tuesday’s election, giving the speaker a super-majority that makes it possible for the party to pass legislation or override without Republican votes if they stick together.
Democrats have claimed victory in two more legislative races in DuPage County, which would bring Madigan’s House margin to 73 members to Republicans’ 45. That would be more than the 72 Democrats he oversaw during the 1991-92 legislative session.
Republicans, though, haven’t conceded in those close DuPage County races as they wait for more results to come in. DuPage election officials said they won’t count more ballots over the weekend and will restart on Tuesday.
Another close race in Lake County could give Madigan a 74th Democrat if Republican Helene Miller Walsh, while Republican state Rep. Tom Morrison of Palatine holds a narrow lead in his northwest suburban re-election bid.
“For the next two years, we will stand strong against Democrat efforts to raise taxes and take more money away from working families throughout Illinois,” House Republican leader Jim Durkin spokeswoman Eleni Demertzis said in a statement.
Democratic victories came in part on the strength of women running for suburban seats.
In DuPage County, Democrat Terra Costa Howard of Glen Ellyn declared victory over GOP state Rep. Peter Breen, a major abortion rights opponent, and Democrat Karina Villa of West Chicago defeated Republican Tonia Khouri of Aurora.
In Lake County, Democrat Joyce Mason of Gurnee bested Republican state Rep. Sheri Jesiel of Winthrop Harbor and Democrat Mary Edly-Allen led Republican Helene Miller Walsh by just three votes in a district where GOP state Rep. Nick Sauer resigned following his ex-girlfriend’s allegations of improper sexual activity online.
Senate President John Cullerton picked up at least one more seat to bring his Democratic majority to at least 38 seats to Republicans’ 21. Votes were still being counted in two more close races.
In the Senate, Democrat Ann Gillespie of Arlington Heights defeated Republican state Sen. Tom Rooney of Rolling Meadows in a northwest suburban district that long has voted for GOP lawmakers. She was a first-time candidate who said she was inspired to get involved in politics after going to the 2017 Women’s March in Washington.
Democrats capitalized on President Donald Trump’s relative unpopularity in the region, Pritzker’s campaign operation and the strength of the two victorious congressional candidates Sean Casten and Lauren Underwood.
Madigan, the nation’s longest-serving speaker, who has held the top House post for all but two years since 1983, will begin his 49th year in the legislature during the new two-year term that starts in January.
New Democratic super-majorities in the House and Senate could be of great help to Pritzker, who will be inaugurated in January. The governor-elect campaigned in part on a promise to drop the current flat-rate income tax and replace it with a graduated income tax, a sliding scale that would impose higher rates on people with the biggest incomes.
Putting that tax question on the 2020 ballot would require super-majority votes in the House and Senate, so big Democratic numbers in Springfield could help the new governor win approval.
Naperville Sun reporter Erin Hegarty contributed.
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November 9, 2018 at 05:51PM