With Gov. Pat Quinn holding a razor-thin lead early Wednesday morning, his Republican rival, state Sen. Bill Brady, did not give a concession speech, asking instead that all ballots be counted before a victor can be declared in the contest for governor.
Standing before hundreds of cheering fans at 1 a.m. Wednesday in a Chicago hotel ballroom, Quinn said he had a lead of only 9,100 votes, or .03 percent, out of more than 3.3 million ballots cast.
The Chicago Tribune reported Wednesday that 98 percent of the state’s precincts had been counted. Quinn and Brady each had 46 percent; meanwhile a trio of third-party candidates won a combined 8 percent, the Tribune reported.
Ballots in more than 200 precincts across the state had not been counted, more than half from Chicago and suburban Cook County, which likely would lean toward Quinn, the Tribune said. But Brady’s camp cautioned that “thousands” of other forms of votes — such as absentee and military ballots — had yet to be counted.
Brady took the stage in a hotel in Bloomington to assure supporters that the fight was not over. “We’re going to make sure every vote counts,” Brady said. “We’re going to work through this quickly. I want to say thank you to all of you and now it’s on to victory.”
The race was close all night, as Quinn pulled to an early lead with results coming in quickly from Chicago. Brady gained on the governor, however, when votes were counted from the suburban collar counties around Chicago and Downstate — the base of Brady’s support.
According to the Tribune, Quinn piled up a 4-to-1 ratio in Chicago, where turnout was estimated at around 52 percent. Quinn needed a city turnout of more than 50 percent, and he got it, the Tribune reported Wednesday.
Quinn claimed victory for himself and his running mate, Sheila Simon, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor.
“I’d rather be ahead than behind,” said Quinn. Laughing with the crowd, Quinn added, “It looks like another landslide victory is headed our way.”
Quinn also lent his support to a recount. “We want to make sure every vote is counted. We totally agree with that. But when all the votes are counted, we’ll end up on top.”
Quinn promised to “reform Illinois from top to bottom.” To chants of “Quinn, Quinn, Quinn,” the governor said he wanted to “make sure everyone in Illinois has a decent job.”
Quinn took over for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich when he was ousted from office nearly two years ago after being charged with a number of corrupt activities, including allegedly trying to sell President Barack Obama’s former Senate seat. Since then, Quinn has been dealing with a $13 billion state budget deficit and a stifled economy.
Brady blamed Quinn throughout the campaign season for not improving the job market and making Illinois a more business-friendly state. Brady proposed slashing taxes by 10 percent while Quinn called for an increase in income taxes to close the budget gap.
Unemployment in Illinois hovers at 9.6 percent.
Quinn also committed many blunders during his campaign, frequently forcing him into a defensive position. In August, he announced that his chief of staff, Jeremy Stermer, was resigning after it was learned that Stermer had used his government e-mail account to send campaign messages. At about the same time, Quinn announced he was not retaining the state’s inspector general, making it look like retaliation for the public outcry over Stermer’s e-mail messages.
In October, Quinn faced further embarrassment when he announced a deal with the state’s largest public employee union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The governor promised the state would not lay off any public employees until mid-2012; in return, the union promised $50 million in cost cuts for the state. Then the union came forward with a $450,000 campaign contribution, opening the way for the GOP to suggest a deal between the governor and the union. Quinn and the union denied any suggestion that the donation was made in exchange for Quinn’s promise not to cut jobs.
At an event hosted by the River North Business Association on Oct. 20, Brady told attendees that this is the “worst possible time to raise taxes.” However, Quinn blasted Brady for not wanting to raise the minimum wage, saying he did not represent working people.
According to Rasmussen Reports polls dating back to March, Brady has held 43 to 50 percent of the vote, while Quinn received 35 to 40 percent.
It remained a tight race for the two top contenders that came with hordes of negative campaigning and political mudslinging.
Quinn ripped Brady throughout the campaign season for not paying federal income taxes, owning a Porsche and a vacation home in Florida and for opposing Obama’s health care reform bill.
Quinn’s campaign spokeswoman, Mica Matsoff, said Brady was “too extreme for the people of Illinois.”
She noted that Brady opposes abortions, even in the case of rape and incest. Brady opposes gay marriage and is a strong supporter of gun ownership and the Second Amendment.
The Brady campaign responded by saying the campaign is not extreme and it “reflects American values and the values of millions of people in Illinois.”
Throughout the campaign, Brady also made note of Quinn’s controversial decision to implement an accelerated early release program for Illinois prisoners that allowed inmates to spend only minimal time behind bars. Quinn said the plan was an effort to save money. He later acknowledged it was a mistake that failed to protect public safety.