GOP Sees Opportunities Up and Down Illinois Ballot

Associated Press + More

CHICAGO — Republicans see opportunities to make gains up and down the Illinois ballot Tuesday as voters decide who will claim President Barack Obama's old Senate seat, the Illinois governor's mansion and multiple congressional seats.

The state's most hotly contested race has been the battle for Obama's former seat, with five-term Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk and Democratic state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias separated by a razor-thin margin.

Losing the Senate seat would be a major embarrassment for Democrats, especially after the president and first lady Michelle Obama made repeated visits to their home state to bolster Giannoulias.

[See political cartoons about the Democrats.]

Both Senate candidates have had their share of troubles this campaign. Giannoulias had to contend with the fallout when his family's Chicago bank failed earlier this year, and Kirk admitted embellishing parts of his military record.

A few of Illinois' 11,000-plus polling places opened late but otherwise no serious glitches were reported. On Chicago's South Side, a voter was seriously injured when a hit-and-run driver slammed into him outside a polling place. A city elections official said two suspects were in custody.

Voters leaving the polls cited the economy, jobs, taxes and education as issues that influenced their choices.

Aldren Mayan, 41, a Chicago accountant who voted early Tuesday, said he picked mostly Democrats, but wasn't really inspired and opted for "the lesser of two evils" in many races. Like many voters, Mayan said he was turned off by all the sniping campaign ads.

"All the negativity they put into TV, radio and mailings. It's too much! Sometimes it backfires," Mayan said.

Both Senate candidates have had their share of troubles this campaign. Giannoulias had to contend with the fallout when his family's Chicago bank failed earlier this year, and Kirk admitted embellishing parts of his military record.

In the governor's race, Republican state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington has assailed Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn for wanting to raise the state income tax as Illinois struggles with a budget deficit that could top $15 billion.

[See political cartoons about the GOP.]

Quinn, who's trying to hold on to the job he inherited in 2009 when Rod Blagojevich was thrown out of office, has blasted Brady for being a wealthy real estate developer who Quinn says will decimate education and social services if elected.

Democrats already bracing to lose control of the U.S. House also are looking to prevent a Republican majority from claiming Illinois' congressional delegation for the first time in seven years.

The GOP is out to capture seats held by Democratic Reps. Debbie Halvorson, Bill Foster and Phil Hare. A fourth seat also is up for grabs — the one Kirk gave up in Chicago's northern suburbs to run for the Senate.