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Expert Comment: How a blue state goes red

American badge Wednesday 5 November 2014

As the results come in for the US Midterm Elections, Visiting Lecturer in Politics (and Illinois resident) Dr Evan Jean Lawrence looks at how her state fared.

Republican business man Bruce Rauner defeated incumbent Illinois Governor Pat Quinn in Tuesday’s midterm elections in the US. The Illinois election was a hard fought race which saw the President of the US campaigning extensively in his home state of Illinois for Pat Quinn the Democratic incumbent. Illinois is historically a Democratic state where Chicago has traditionally held the most sway allowing democrats to win in the Governor’s seat for the past 15 years.

Unfortunately, with the likes of George Ryan’s conviction on federal corruption charges and Rod Blagojevich’s impeachment, removal from office, and subsequent conviction on federal corruption a charge stemming from the reappointment of President Obama’s Senate seat, the Governor of Illinois has been seen as a corrupt institution by many Illinoisans for years. Quinn having been Blagojevich’s Lieutenant Governor and previous State of Illinois Treasurer certainly didn’t make him any friends and certainly cast him as part of the status quo in voters eyes only winning the election in 2010 by a very narrow margin. So it was no surprise that Quinn’s challenger Bruce Rauner ran on an anticorruption in politics and improving education in Illinois schools platform which won him a great deal of support from Southern Illinois, a typically much more conservative anti-establishment demographic, as well as a Republican demographic largely ignored by the Chicago based democrats.

There is dismay from the Illinois Democrats who had hoped that the historically democratic leaning state would hold on to its democratic governor even if it was in a close race.  The race was high spending, both in terms of money and political capital with both sides throwing everything they had at it and pulling out all the stops in order to see their candidate to the win on election night. Both sides each spent over $100 million US dollars on the campaign and bought and aired numerous nasty campaign ads at one another. Mudslinging has long been part of Illinois politics both with campaign ads and Get out the Vote efforts and many Illinois residents are tired of what has been seen in the past as senselessness of the ads. The loss comes as a big blow to the Obama administration and a seething rejection of democratic policies in Obama’s home state where both the President and First Lady campaigned for Quinn. 

The Illinois Governor’s race was representative of how most of the midterm elections went in the US, with the Democrats losing control of the Senate, increasing their majority in the US House of Representatives, and gaining governors in several historically democratic strongholds. The results of the midterm elections are poised to present quite a challenge to President Obama’s last two years in office, possibly hampering efforts to appoint senior members of government, judges, and impeding his ability to pass any meaningful policy reform before he leaves office in 2016.


Dr. Evan Jean Lawrence

Visiting Lecturer in Politics and International Relations, US Citizen, and Illinois Resident

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