Republicans face greater Democratic control in Springfield
By Bob Okon firstname.lastname@example.org November 8, 2012 12:38PM
Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, Will County superintendent of schools
Updated: January 10, 2013 1:46AM
Voters in Will County and elsewhere did not take out Illinois’ fiscal problems on the party in control Tuesday night. Instead, they gave Democrats more control.
Republican losses in the Legislature “makes us a super, super minority,” said Garrett Peck, the Plainfield village trustee who lost a race for the state Senate. “There needs to be a balance of power.”
Balancing power against Democrats, who have been in charge as the state’s fiscal problems have worsened, was the central theme of Republican campaigns throughout Illinois. Candidates like Peck even promised to repeal the January 2011 income tax increases.
But it was Democrats who were basking in voter approval Wednesday.
They gained so many seats in the Legislature that Democrats now have veto-proof majorities in both chambers: 71-47 in the House and 40-19 in the Senate.
“We all worked hard,” said Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, the Democrat who beat Peck in the 49th Senate District. “I think we were able to reach out to individual voters. In my case it was knocking on a lot of doors.”
Bertino-Tarrant said she started knocking on doors a year ago and visited thousands of houses in the course of her campaign.
But her campaign also was well financed by the Democratic Party and labor unions, allowing Bertino-Tarrant to appear on TV in people’s homes as well as at their doors.
House Republican Leader Tom Cross said his party definitely has an image problem in Illinois. Republicans lost by wide margins among young people, women and even men, Cross said.
“We have to figure out what our product is, what our brand is,” Cross lamented on Wednesday.
Losing so many seats in the Legislature was the result of a number of factors, Cross said. One big one was the coattails effect from President Barack Obama winning 60 percent of the Illinois vote.
“You couple that with a legislative map that benefitted the Democrats,” he said. “And, the Democrats outspent us 4-1. It was hard to overcome.”
Democrats controlled the remapping of legislative districts that followed the 2010 census, and the Republicans may have lost many races in Tuesday’s elections when they were unable to fight the remap in court.
Democrats appeared invincible in some spots.
Natalie Manley, whose campaign appeared to be on the rocks in May when she was arrested for a domestic incident involving her daughter, not only stayed in the campaign, she ended up trouncing her opponent, getting 60 percent of the vote in the 98th House District. The battery charge against Manley had been dismissed in August.
Rep. Larry Walsh Jr., D-Elwood, and Sen. Pat McGuire had to overcome the appearances of insider politics when they were appointed to their seats early this year without even having to run in the primary. Their predecessors resigned after winning the primaries, leaving local Democrats to appoint Walsh and McGuire.
Voters did not seem to mind, however. Their districts, which include most of Joliet, do benefit Democrats. But Walsh and McGuire got more than twice the votes of their Republican opponents.
Walsh said voters did not seem to be bothered by the process by which he and McGuire were appointed. But he also said voters were not buying the Republican’s message that Democrats are fiscally reckless.
Voters are more receptive to a positive campaign, Walsh said.
“I was born and raised working on many, many campaigns,” said Walsh, whose father, Larry Walsh, is Will County executive and a former state senator. “I always believed that the voters — if you were honest with them and talked with them about the issues, they would reward you with their trust.”