Report of death exaggerated?

Even if we weren’t based in the Land of Lincoln, we’d find Illinois politics fascinating. And now, in this blue state, Republicans are holding their own in recent polling. Will it last? It’s too early to tell, and there’s some conflicting indicators here that make the overall picture even more of a mystery. First, let’s look at the race for the U.S. Senate.

Senate: Democrat Alexi Giannoulias vs Republican Mark Kirk vs Green Party’s LeAlan Jones. (Incumbent: Roland Burris)

Alexi Giannoulias is the Democrat State Treasurer and was a regular during the famous presidential campaign pick-up basketball games. Giannoulias was only 30 years old when elected to office largely on the strength of his experience as a loan officer in his family’s bank. Now, that bank has been the fodder for some fairly spectacular headlines involving, among other things, loans to mob figures. To complicate matters, the bank was recently taken over by the FDIC amid stories of mismanagement (although Giannoulias makes the argument that the Economy was the culprit).  And it really didn’t help that he was at the helm of the Treasurer’s Office when the nation’s economy went south contributing to a sizable loss in a college-savings program he oversaw.

The Republican challenger is Congressman Mark Kirk.  Kirk had a fairly easy primary, but has taken his share of grief by his own Party over his voting record in Congress. A fiscal conservative with a Master’s Degree from the London School of Economics, Kirk lives in the 10th Congressional District which leans left. He’s faced some tough battles over the past few elections…but has prevailed in all. And while he ticked off many of the state’s employers with some of his previous stances that may reflect his home district’s views, he gets the credit for talking directly with business leaders  after those votes, taking the full brunt of heat and living to run for higher office…aided greatly by his stalwart stance against deficits. Kirk touts his military background as an intelligence officer for the Naval Reserve (he was deployed to Afghanistan in 2008), and has not had to endure the media glare that Giannoulias has experienced.

The Green Party candidate, LeAlan Jones, touts himself as a “Award-winning journalist. Single father. Football coach. Truth-teller.” While no one is giving Mr. Jones a chance, it should be noted that the Green Party has done surprisingly well in Illinois, (see Rich Whitney, below) and Jones can certainly play a spoiler role in the fall.

On Sunday, May 2, 2010, we asked 1,090 likely Illinois voters who they are supporting for the U.S. Senate. Note that each candidate was identified by political party affiliation. Here are the results:

Illinois: U.S. Senate

 Alexi Giannoulias (D)Mark Kirk (R)LeAlan Jones (G)Unsure
OVERALL32.20%45.23%5.32%17.25%
GENDER
Female31.91%46.48%3.44%18.17%
Male32.68%48.32%6.98%12.01%
PARTY AFFILIATION
Democrat65.65%12.16%5.47%16.72%
Republican3.82%84.08%2.23%9.87%
Independent/Other24.91%47.06%6.92%21.11%
Date of Poll: May 2, 2010
Number of responses: 1,090
Margin of Error: ±2.97%

Note that Kirk’s edge among Independents has ebbed by about five percentage points over the past month, but his lead has actually gained five points.

Illinois Governor: Democrat Pat Quinn vs Republican Bill Brady vs Green Party’s Rich Whitney

Republican State Senator Bill Brady is a home-builder from downstate Bloomington. He won a squeaker Primary by about 200 votes on his second run for governor in Illinois’ February 2nd election. Brady has yet to pull a significant vote total out of the state’s collar counties–the traditional GOP stronghold–but is said to be working the northern part of the state hard. He recently received some flak when he allowed reporters to examine his tax records and it was discovered that he had not paid (or owed any) income taxes for the past two years. Many chalked that up to the fact that the home-building industry was slammed by the economy  (unlike Giannoulias, there has been no scandals attached to his business dealings), but you can bet his opponents will have some fun with that when the heat gets turned on.

Democrat Pat Quinn is the incumbent due to his ascension to governor after Rod Blagojevich was impeached. As Lt. Governor, Quinn was a vocal opponent to many of Blago’s antics, but he also is on record saying good things about him when they ran and won as a team in 2002 and 2006. Quinn is a populist’s populist–he ends most of his speeches with the phrase: “May the will of the People be the law of the land.” He won a close, tough primary against State Comptroller Dan Hynes who bloodied him with some effective TV and radio ads. But Quinn ultimately prevailed when he parlayed his sincere outreach to veterans and the families of soldiers lost in Iraq into his campaign biography. Due to the state’s financial problems, Quinn has been touting a sizable income tax increase which is falling on deaf ears in the General Assembly. However, the Legislature’s hearing is rumored to improve after the fall elections, and he may be able to put revenue enhancers on the back burner until then. Ever the populist, Quinn recently (and somewhat quietly) urged the Illinois legislature to consider dramatic expansions to the nation’s recent health care reforms–“Obama-care on steroids” as one wag put it. The polling results on that issue shows that, politically speaking,  he was wise for keeping the initiative quiet.

Rich Whitney (Green Party) is a civil rights attorney from Carbondale. Whitney surprised election pundits in 2006 by receiving 10.4% of the vote for governor–a feat some feel was tied to Democrats turning elsewhere rather than vote for Blagojevich. Be that as it may, Whitney may once again prove to be the recipient of a growing number of voters who embrace anti-incumbentism, and therefore play a spoiler role.

Here are the results of the poll we took on the Illinois Governor’s race on May 2, 2010. (Again, we identify the political party of each person for the participants.)

Illinois: Governor's Race

 Bill Brady (R)Pat Quinn (D)Rich Whitney (G) Unsure
OVERALL46.25%31.15%4.81%17.79%
GENDER
Female46.32%30.77%3.44%19.48%
Male48.60%32.96%6.98%11.45%
PARTY AFFILIATION
Democrat15.81%58.97%5.17%20.06%
Republican83.12%5.73%2.55%8.60%
Independent/Other43.94%27.68%7.27%21.11%
Date of Poll: May 2, 2010
Number of responses: 1050
Margin of Error: ±3.02%

Note the percent of UNDECIDEDS among Democrats and Independents is roughly the same. This fact may not bode well for Quinn, who has been a fixture in Illinois’ Democratic scene for decades. While many feel that those votes will ultimately come home to roost, We Ask America will be watching those and INDEPENDENT voters carefully for signs of movement.

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