Illinois Dems sense best chance in decades to gain control

Tuesday, November 5, 2002

Associated Press WriterCHICAGO (AP) -- Democrats sensed their best chance in decades to gain control of state government heading into Election Day, while Republicans fought to shake off the effects of a scandal-plagued GOP administration.

Rod Blagojevich, the Democratic candidate for governor, tried to convince voters that Republicans' quarter-century lock on the governor's mansion had led to a budget crisis and corruption in state government.

Republican candidate Jim Ryan, the state attorney general, spent much of the campaign trying to distance himself from unpopular Republican Gov. George Ryan, who declined to seek a second term amid an ongoing federal corruption investigation.

The governor's campaign fund, top aides and friends have been indicted in Operation Safe Road, a federal investigation of corruption in the secretary of state's office during the two terms he ran that agency. George Ryan has not been charged with wrongdoing.

Democrats, who already controlled the state House, saw a good chance to expand their majority there while perhaps taking control of the state Senate as well.

In the campaign for U.S. Senate, Republican state Rep. Jim Durkin was unable to afford any television or radio commercials and faced a well-financed incumbent he accused of failing to provide leadership.

Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin raised nearly $5 million and ran several different television commercials. In the final weekend of the campaign, his TV spot focused on how to spell his name, lest voters confuse him with his opponent.

In one of the nation's most closely watched congressional races, redistricting pitted two incumbents against one another.

A new congressional map reduced Illinois' number of representatives to 19 from 20, forcing Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, to face fellow Rep. David Phelps, D-Eldorado.

Each man tried to portray himself as the more conservative candidate. They support gun rights, oppose abortion and call for smaller government.

One of the most bitterly fought statewide races was for Illinois attorney general. Democratic state Sen. Lisa Madigan and Republican Joe Birkett, the DuPage County state's attorney, traded charges and countercharges for months.

Birkett accused Madigan of having little legal experience and being a pawn of her powerful father, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago.

Lisa Madigan accused Birkett of ethical lapses involving campaign contributions and hammered him on his role in the case of a man who was convicted of murder but ultimately found to have been railroaded.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: