Tom Kacich | Pritzker sets record in winning Champaign County

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker has the record for largest winning percentage by a Democratic candidate for governor in modern Champaign County voting history.

Pritzker’s 58.77 percent of the vote in the Nov. 8 election broke the record he established four years ago, when he took 54.93 percent of the county’s vote over incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Those two recent election results are more evidence of the sharp decline in Republican support within Champaign County, an especially precipitous drop since Donald Trump became the face of the national party. Rauner defeated Democrat Gov. Pat Quinn 55 percent to 41 percent in Champaign County just eight years ago.

The change is most pronounced in Champaign-Urbana, where the only statewide or countywide Republican candidate to win any of the 62 urban precincts was defeated incumbent circuit Judge Sam Limentato, and he won just six of them: City of Champaign 24, 29, 33, 36, 37 and 38, all in either south or southwest Champaign.

Although Pritzker did poorly in most of the precincts outside of Champaign-Urbana (he got just 11.6 percent of the vote in Kerr Township and 11 percent in Stanton Township, both in the northeastern part of the county), he swept every precinct in the cities, even those outside the University of Illinois campus area, with 65 percent to 85 percent of the vote.

In City of Champaign 12, including downtown Champaign and the area west to Prospect Avenue, Pritzker got 83 percent of the vote. In the Cunningham 10 precinct around Urbana’s Carle Park, the governor got 93 percent.

Even in the wealthiest areas of the cities — far southwestern Champaign and far southeastern Urbana — Pritzker got 68 and 74 percent of the vote, respectively.

The nine campus-area precincts were kind to Democrats, as usual. Pritzker got 3,590 votes from those nine precincts to just 399 for Republican Darren Bailey. Even without those campus precincts, though, Pritzker would have won Champaign County by more than 10,000 votes.

This month’s election results are a painful reversal of fortune for local Republicans, who once again lost every statewide and countywide race in the county and only won only six of 22 seats on the gerrymandered Champaign County Board.

Between 1940 and 2014, the Republican candidate won all 20 of the gubernatorial contests here. And in most cases, Champaign County voters gave the GOP contender a 5-to-14-percentage-point greater share of the vote than he received statewide.

In the 1978 gubernatorial election, for example, Gov. Jim Thompson got 59 percent of the vote statewide over Democrat Michael Bakalis, but 73.3 percent in Champaign County. In 2006, Republican candidate Judy Baar Topinka received 53.12 percent in Champaign County but just 39 percent statewide, losing to Rod Blagojevich, who eventually was impeached and sent to federal prison.

Pritzker’s nearly 59 percent share of the Champaign County vote this year pales when compared with some extraordinary Republican gubernatorial numbers here: 76.65 percent for Thompson in 1976, 63 percent for Jim Edgar in 1990, and 66.4 percent for Len Small in 1924.

But it’s better than the percentages received by the three other Democratic candidates for governor who have won Champaign County since 1900: 51.6 percent in 1936 and 51.2 percent in 1932 for Henry Horner, 33.6 percent in a three-way race in 1912 for Edward Dunne, and 48.1 percent in 1908 for Adlai Stevenson.

Verdict(s) on Frerichs

State Treasurer Mike Frerichs of Champaign, the only downstater on the Democratic Party ticket this year, easily won a third term with about 55 percent of the vote statewide over Republican Tom Demmer of Dixon.

It was a mixed bag for Frerichs in Champaign County, where he took 63 percent of the vote — up from 53 percent in 2014 but down from 67 percent in 2018.

He did well in his home precinct in central Champaign, getting nearly 64 percent of the vote. But in the precinct that includes his boyhood home of Gifford and some of the surrounding area, Frerichs got just 36 percent of the vote. Still, that was about twice as much as other Democratic candidates on the ballot. Attorney General Kwame Raoul, for example, pulled 13.4 percent in the Compromise Gifford precinct.

Turnout

The official countywide turnout of 68,665 voters was no record — that belongs to the 80,112 in the 2018 election — but it was well above the recent average.

Other recent non-presidential election year totals in Champaign County were 55,434 in 2014, 54,818 in 2010, 53,869 in 2006 and 54,302 in 2002.

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November 28, 2022 at 06:46AM

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