Illinois GOP Primary Results Bode Well for November

Illinois held its primary on Tuesday and the usual run of rogues and rascals vied with each other for the opportunity to make their fame and fortune purloining the public purse. Since the opportunities for graft and corruption in the state are nearly endless, one wag suggested that instead of the winners posing for the traditional picture taken in victory, they should make things easy on the voter and get their mug shot taken at the same time.

The Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor is Scott Lee Cohen, a pawnbroker and cleaning supply distributor by trade who financed his campaign from his own personal fortune. Cohen was arrested in 2005 on domestic battery charges, which were thrown out when his accuser failed to show up in court. This upstanding citizen could be a heartbeat -- or an impeachment inquiry -- away from the governor's office. Just ask current Governor Pat Quinn, who slipped into the top job from his lieutenant governor's post when disgraced former Governor Rod Blagojevich was impeached for, among other things, trying to sell the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama.

Perhaps it is symptomatic of the times that both the Republican and Democratic gubernatorial primaries ended the night too close to call. The fact is, there was not much excitement generated by any of the top-tier candidates for either governor or senator as evidenced by the paltry turnout of less than 30% of eligible voters. This compared to a usual primary turnout of more than 35%.

But if passions were at a low ebb, election night made up for it with some real nail-biters.

In the Democratic governor's race, Quinn leads Comptroller Dan Hynes by a scant 7,300 votes with two percent of the precincts left to count. Quinn has lengthened his lead slightly since Tuesday night, when Hynes defiantly refused to concede. The governor took a call of congratulations from President Obama this morning, but this one has a ways to go before it's over. While there is no automatic mechanism for a recount, once the results are certified on March 5, Hynes is free to petition the state Supreme Court for relief. Between now and then, the raw totals will be eyeballed for errors. If Hynes feels he has a case, he can try his luck with the courts.

On the Republican side, an interesting race developed between state senators Kirk Dillard and Bill Brady. Brady is a traditional conservative Republican socially and fiscally, while Dillard earned the enmity of almost everyone in the GOP establishment when he actually cut a campaign commercial for Barack Obama just prior to the Iowa caucuses. It was an upstate vs. downstate race, with Brady's roots in Bloomington and Dillard cutting his political teeth in the south Chicago suburbs.

Dillard is the more pragmatic of the two candidates but is conservative enough for most Illinois voters. He was endorsed by the last Illinois governor not serving prison time or indicted -- fellow moderate conservative Jim Edgar. With 99% of the precincts counted, he trails Brady by a mere 509 votes. How much do you think he is regretting making that Obama commercial now?

An interesting side note to the race was the late endorsement by Rush Limbaugh of Adam Andrzejewski, who generated some excitement from online conservatives the last few weeks of the campaign. Showing support in the single digits in a December poll, Andrzejewski surged to within a couple of percentage points of the frontrunners before falling back and finishing with 15%.