Illinois Insights: An Update from Cozen O’Connor Public Strategies (11/9)
November 9, 2022
November 9, 2022
In the first election since redistricting, Illinois voters took to the polls to make their voices heard down the ballot and to select their chosen party’s standard-bearer in a slate of key offices.
Federal offices up for election in Illinois during the 2022 midterm elections included one of two U.S. Senate seats and all 17 U.S. House seats.
Multiple state executive offices were up for election in Illinois as well, including Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and Secretary of State. All seats in the Democrat-controlled Illinois State Senate and House of Representatives were also up for election.
Voters made their voices heard on a number of critical down-ballot issues, including the ideological balance of the Illinois Supreme Court and the fate of an Illinois constitutional amendment question regarding employees’ rights to collective bargaining on wages, hours, and working conditions.
In Cook County, elections for County Board President, Sheriff, Treasurer, Assessor, Clerk, and Sheriff were up this year. Voters in Cook County were also asked to vote on a Cook County Forest Preserve tax referendum.
Illinois’ largest city, Chicago, did not hold a mayoral election in 2022. Chicago’s municipal elections are slated for February 28, 2023 with potential runoff elections on April 4, 2023.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran who’s been senator six years and was in Congress two terms before that, secured a second term as the junior senator from Illinois over Republican opponent Kathy Salvi shortly after election polls closed Tuesday night.
Duckworth (D) ran unopposed during the primaries. Her opponent, Kathy Salvi (R), clinched the Republican nomination in a seven-way GOP primary contest, winning 30.23% of the vote. Salvi is an attorney in Chicago and former Lake County assistant public defender. She previously ran for Congress in 2006 but was ultimately unsuccessful. Libertarian Bill Redpath was also on the ballot.
Given Duckworth’s incumbency advantage and huge fundraising lead over her largely self-funded Republican challenger, many polling sources had previously identified the race as “Solid Democrat.”
In a forum on October 27, Duckworth and Salvi shared the stage in an hour-long, televised debate that showcased their stark differences on the key issues of guns, immigration, abortion, inflation, student-loan forgiveness, and the national farm bill. Duckworth and Salvi did manage to find common ground on one topic: the Chicago Bears; both support the Bears moving from Chicago to the Arlington Heights suburb.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D) was not up for reelection this cycle.
Following the 2020 U.S. Census results – which reported a population decline in Illinois over the last decade – and subsequent redistricting, Illinois now has a total of 17 congressional seats, down from 18. Every seat was up for reelection in the 2022 election cycle.
With congressional races in the state tightening over the past several weeks and the balance of Congress on the line across the country, President Joe Biden and GOP House minority leader both made visits to Illinois last week to campaign for their party’s respective candidates. Vice President Kamala Harris also visited Chicago (for the second time in less than two months) to lend support to Illinois Democrats.
Political sites tracking races across the state have highlighted some key contests over the course of this election cycle. Real Clear Politics marked the 6th, 13th, and 14th Congressional Districts as toss-ups and the 17th Congressional District as “Leans Republican.” The Cook Political Report only named the 17th district as a toss-up, while the 6th, 13th and 14th districts as “Leans Democrat.” FiveThirtyEight put each district in the Democrats’ category.
Despite losing a seat, Illinois Democrats appear to have expanded their Congressional coalition, winning some key contested races.
An overview of key contested U.S. House races and their outcomes are below.
In Illinois’ gubernatorial race, incumbent Governor JB Pritzker and Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton successfully claimed reelection over far-right Sen. Darren Bailey (R) and his running mate Stephanie Trussell 54% to 43% as of 7 a.m. Wednesday morning.
Bailey had ousted a slew of well-funded candidates in the June primary to win his spot as the Republican nominee, including Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin and venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan. Gov. Pritzker (D) won his primary by a landslide margin, clinching 93% of the vote to political newcomer Beverly Miles’ 7%.
Pritzker, who poured millions of dollars of his personal fortune into not only his own race but also other Illinois Democratic campaigns across the state, outspent Bailey 38-1 between July and September, state campaign filings showed.
Running ads against Pritzker, GOP mega donor and billionaire Dick Uihlein invested nearly $34 million post-primary in the political action committee People Who Play By the Rules, which helped Bailey and Republicans in races across the state. Since the June primary, the PAC paid more than $17 million for television ads focused on Chicago violence, the state’s crime problems, and the recently passed SAFE-T Act.
Over the course of the fall campaign cycle, the two gubernatorial candidates strongly criticized one another’s position on hot-topic issues, including crime, abortion, education, and the economy. In two heated gubernatorial debates and throughout his campaign, Bailey made crime a central theme. In addition to calls for the repeal of the SAFE-T Act, Bailey blamed Chicago violence on local Democratic leaders and labeled the city a “hellhole.” For his part, Pritzker called Bailey “a threat to democracy.” Pritzker’s main message focused on abortion as he pledged to protect reproductive rights as governor. Pritzker also used his platform to highlight his accomplishments in office, including the passage of budget surpluses after years of deficits, improvements to the state’s overall fiscal health, temporary tax relief, and a state capital plan that prioritizes infrastructure projects and job creation throughout the state.
Republican nominees have not won a statewide election since 2014, when former GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner beat incumbent Democrat Pat Quinn. With vote totals nearing 100% across many statewide offices at the time of this writing, and with many races already called, Democrats stand to continue this streak.
Incumbent Attorney General Kwame Raoul (D), who previously served in the state Senate, defeated far-right attorney and well-known critic of Illinois’ COVID-19 mitigation measures Thomas DeVore (R) 54 percent to 44 percent as of 7 a.m. Wednesday.
The son of Haitian immigrants, Raoul is a former longtime state lawmaker who lives on the Near North Side and was elected to a first-term as attorney general in 2018. DeVore is a small-town lawyer from southern Illinois and political newcomer.
As attorney general, Raoul has called for increased regulation of alternative retail energy suppliers; won legislative reform of the independent state board that oversees law enforcement training; and secured $19.8 million from consulting firm McKinsey & Company for its role in the nation’s ongoing opioid epidemic.
Crime took center stage as a major issue in this race, with candidates at opposite ends of the fight. Raoul has said he “firmly” supports the end of cash bail — the most controversial component of the SAFE-T Act and which goes into effect on January 1, 2023. DeVore has called the law unconstitutional, saying that, if he’s elected, he wouldn’t defend it.
At the end of September, Raoul’s campaign had $1.9 million in cash, compared with just under $300,000 for DeVore.
Former state treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D) emerged the winner against former state representative Dan Brady (R) in Illinois’ closely watched contest to replace retiring six-term Secretary of State Jesse White (D). Giannoulias defeated Rep. Dan Brady (R-Bloomington) 54 percent to 44 percent as of 7 a.m. Wednesday. With the defeat, Brady will be leaving the House after 20 years in office.
Giannoulias previously served as Illinois state treasurer, and in 2010, he ran for U.S. Senate, losing to Republican Mark Kirk. Giannoulias beat out a suite of Democratic challengers to win the Democratic nominee in June, including Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia. Brady, who has 20 years of experience as a state representative as well as time in private business and county government, won the Republican nomination against John Milhiser.
During the election cycle, both candidates focused on what they would do to reduce wait times at the driver services facilities and make services more accessible. Brady said he would offer more remote services, cut vehicle registration fees by $50 for one year, and increase the use of license plate reading technology. Giannoulias instead proposed a full-scale modernization of driver services facilities, with plans to implement a “skip the line” program, digital IDs and driver’s licenses, kiosks inside of DMVs, and services in libraries.
With no plans on how to pay back the $550 million dollars Brady’s registration fee reduction would cost the state, Giannoulias had spoken out against Brady’s proposal in October, calling it an “offensive, dangerous” and “ridiculous political stunt.”
Democratic incumbent Comptroller Susana Mendoza, who took office in late 2016 after a tenure as the Chicago city clerk, faced off against Crystal Lake Republican and McHenry County Auditor Shannon Teresi in this year’s comptroller race. As of 7 a.m. Wednesday, Mendoza led Teresi 57 percent to 41 percent.
Under Mendoza, the state’s bill backlog has been reduced to a regular set of incoming bills and the state has seen six credit upgrades. Mendoza has said with a second full term she would focus on the future of Illinois finances, including increasing Illinois’ Budget Stabilization Fund, also known as the “rainy day fund,” from its current $1 billion to about $3.25 billion (about a month’s worth of excess funds).
Treasurer Mike Frerichs (D) won a third term as the state’s chief investment officer after defeating Rep. Tom Demmer (R-Dixon) 54 percent to 44 percent. Demmer, the chief budget negotiator for the House Republicans, will leave the House after 10 years in office.
Due to redistricting, all seats in both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly – 118 in the state House and 59 in the state Senate – were up for grabs this election cycle.
Heading into the election, Democrats held veto-proof supermajorities in both the Senate (41-18) and the House (73-45). Democrats will remain in supermajority control of both the Illinois House and Senate, according to early results. Despite losing 114th District Rep. LaToya Greenwood (D), Democrats in the Illinois House increased their seat totals from 73 to 77. In the state Senate, Democrats lost one seat, bringing their total to 40 at the time of this writing. However, that number can change as the 19th District has yet to be called.
Chief issues in this year’s elections across the state included abortion and women’s rights, crime and the controversial SAFE-T Act, and the economy.
There are 59 districts in the Illinois state Senate; all seats were up for reelection. Eight incumbents, six Democrat and two Republican, did not run for reelection. Only one incumbent lost in the June 28 primaries: Sen. Eric Mattson (D-43) lost his primary to Rachel Ventura (D). Despite losing the incumbent, Senate Democrats were able to keep the seat blue.
In addition, six incumbents filed to run for reelection in new districts different from those they represented before the election.
Key contested Illinois state Senate races and their outcomes are below.
There are 118 districts in the Illinois state Senate; all seats were up for reelection. Fourteen incumbents, five Democrats and nine Republicans, either retired or ran for another office and were not on the ballot in 2022. Five incumbents lost in the June 28 primaries: Rep. Denyse Wang Stoneback (D-16), Rep. Michael Zalewski (D-21), Rep. David Welter (R-75), Rep. Kathleen Willis (D-77), and Rep. Mark Luft (R-93).
In addition, 25 incumbents filed to run for re-election in new districts different from those they represented before the election.
Key contested Illinois state House races and their outcomes are below.
The Illinois Supreme Court has seven total seats: three from the First District, which is Cook County alone, and one each from the four other districts across the state. Democrats have long held a 4-3 majority on the court. The three justices from Cook County are all Democrats, including Justice Mary Jane Theis, who is up for a retention vote this year. The justices from the Fourth District (central and western Illinois) and Fifth District (largely downstate) are both Republicans.
In 2020, however, Democratic Justice Thomas Kilbride failed to reach the critical 60 percent retention vote needed to secure his spot on the bench in the Third Judicial District after a highly expensive, ad-heavy race. His seat, along with retiring Republican Justice Robert Thomas’ Second Judicial District seat, led to two vacancies on the ballot this year for the newly redrawn districts in Chicago’s suburban counties. With two of the court’s seven seats up for grabs, Republicans had a chance to win a majority for the first time in more than half a century.
In Illinois’ Second Judicial District, comprising McHenry, Lake, DeKalb, Kane, and Kendall counties, former prosecutor and Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran (R) is challenging Democrat Elizabeth Rochford, who currently serves as a circuit court judge in Lake County.
In the Third District, encompassing DuPage, Will, Kankakee, Grundy, Iroquois, LaSalle and Bureau counties, incumbent Republican Supreme Court Justice Michael Burke is facing a challenge from Appellate Court Justice Mary Kay O’Brien, who is a Democrat. Burke was appointed in 2020 to fill Thomas’ Second District vacancy but is now seeking a full 10-year term in the Third District. O’Brien is a justice on the 3rd District Court of Appeals and has spent nearly 19 years on the bench.
Democrats will hold the majority in the Supreme Court. The Democrats will now have at least a 4-3 majority after Democratic Judge Elizabeth Rochford defeated Mark Curran in the Second District 54 percent to 46 percent as of 7 a.m. Wednesday. In the Third District, Justice Mary Kay O’Brien leads incumbent Republican Justice Michael Burke 51 percent to 49 percent as of 7 a.m. this morning, with 90% of the vote counted.
The judicial races were the most expensive in the nation – a recent analysis by New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice found that Illinois had seen the most spending among the 28 states where voters elected justices to their high courts. Candidates on both sides of the aisle received backing from all sides, including independent expenditure committees.
For his part, Pritzker not only contributed $500,000 each to the campaigns of Democratic judges Elizabeth Rochford and Mary Kay O’Brien in September but also dipped into his personal trust fund to circumvent recently passed Public Act 102-0909, which limits contributions to judicial candidates, and donate an additional $500,000 in late October to both campaigns.
In addition, the two highly-contested judicial races, which focused heavily on abortion and included partisan TV advertisements attacking individual judges, caused several organizations representing different parts of the legal community to sign a document last month re-declaring their political independence.
The Declaration of Judicial Independence – signed by 18 legal organizations in the state, including the Illinois Judges Association (IJA), Illinois State Bar Association, and Chicago Bar Association – stated that the “court system can only function if it is viewed as impartial, which means that judges make decisions based solely upon the facts and the law.”
IJA president and Cook County Appellate Court Justice Eileen O’Neill Burke encouraged voters to make their decisions at the ballot box based on ISBA’s Judicial Evaluations and Ratings and the CBA’s Judicial Voting Guide, which includes the qualifications of judicial candidates and judges seeking retention.
Just under 60% of Illinois voters have voted to approve Amendment 1 as of 9 a.m. Wednesday, but drop-off in the number of voters voting on the amendment is less than it has been in years past, making the amendment’s passage either by a simple majority of voters in the election or by re-crossing the 60% threshold likely. Also known as the “Workers’ Rights Amendment,” the amendment to the Illinois Constitution guarantees Illinois workers the right to organize, bargain collectively, and negotiate wages, hours, and working conditions.
The amendment was especially backed by unions, who poured millions into the Vote Yes for the Workers’ Rights Amendment campaign.
Supporters of the amendment claim that more union strikes are unlikely, and that unions prompt higher salaries, which in turn make members more likely to own homes and put money back into the economy, generating more revenue from property and sales taxes. The proposal is most popular among younger voters, with 80% of 18 to 34-year-olds polled saying they support it.
Support for the amendment also extended up to Illinois’ federal representatives who believe passing the amendment would boost the state’s competitiveness in the nation’s economy. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.) met with union members in Joliet last week to discuss federal legislation and how it impacts union workers in Illinois as well as explain how they believe Amendment 1 will benefit Illinois.
Opponents argue that such legislation would give too much power to union leaders, allowing them to strike over issues not relating to wages or benefits, and would come with major tax consequences for residents.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle secured victory Tuesday night in her campaign for top executive in county government. This will be Preckwinkle’s fourth term, making her the longest serving board president since George Dunne, who served from 1969 to 1990.
Preckwinkle squared off against the same rival she did four years ago. But this time, former Chicago Ald. Bob Fioretti ran as a Republican, after losing his Democratic primary challenge to Preckwinkle in 2018. Preckwinkle amassed about 66.5 percent of the vote by 10:41 p.m. Tuesday night, declaring another victory over Fioretti. Fioretti obtained 30.3 percent as of the same time.
In a statement issued Tuesday night, Preckwinkle said “I extend my deepest gratitude to the voters of Cook County and I’m grateful they have entrusted me to run the nation’s second-largest county in the country for the past twelve years, and look forward to all the good work that lies ahead.”
In her most recent budget address, Preckwinkle emphasized the county’s strong financial position, highlighted important investments in the budget for the coming year, and reflected on the work her administration has accomplished to advance equity-centered initiatives in response to high levels of gun violence.
While Fioretti blamed Preckwinkle for surging crime, claiming she “put the county in danger with reckless spending, over-taxation and flat out incompetence,” Preckwinkle has said that “12 years of hard work in the job I hold” separated her from Fioretti, who was waging his sixth campaign in seven years.
At the end of September, Preckwinkle’s campaign had over $181,593 available compared to Fioretti’s campaign, which had about $8,019 in his main fund, plus a little over $179 in another active fund.
Libertarian Thea Tsatsos also ran, but only managed to net about 3.1 percent of the vote. Tsatsos said her campaign “serves to spread the Libertarian ideas of personal freedom and individual responsibility, as well as further establishing the Libertarian Party in Cook County.”
Additionally on the ballot for Cook County voters was a referendum proposing an increase to the Forest Preserve District of Cook County’s taxing rate. As of roughly 10:30 p.m. Tuesday night, the referendum passed with 63 percent of voters in the suburbs and 74 percent of voters in Chicago voting in support of the referendum.
Cook County Board members unanimously voted to put the referendum on the ballot last year, priding themselves on not having raised the county’s property tax levy since the 1990s but agreeing to let voters decide. The Clean Air, Clean Water, and Wildlife Habitat Protection Referendum would raise the property tax rate for the forest preserves by 0.025%.
The district has said the tax hike would mean an additional $43.5 million in revenue in the 2023 budget that could go toward deferred maintenance, pensions, and capital costs. An average homeowner would see a $21 increase in their property taxes each year if the referendum passes.
Records show the fundraising committee supporting the referendum spent more than $1.5 million in the final months leading up to the midterm elections to promote the ballot question.
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