By Jayette Bolinski | Illinois Watchdog
SPRINGFIELD — Illinois voters this week sent Democrats marching to the Illinois Statehouse and, not surprisingly, helped hand President Barack Obama a second term in the White House.
Illinois GOP turning attention to 2014 governor’s race
The Illinois Republican Party is turning its attention to 2014 gubernatorial race, chairman Pat Brady said this week, after the GOP failed to gain ground with voters and watched Democrats lock in a veto-proof majority in the Illinois General Assembly.
“The battle lines are kind of drawn, and we need to focus on that race and we need to get some kind of census on who we’re going to nominate and get behind them early,” Brady told WJBC.com.
Illinois Democrats walked away from Tuesday’s election with an embarrassment of riches — the “riches” being victory in numerous General Assembly races and a veto-proof majority in both chambers.
The 2010 district map redraw was a factor, as was being Obama’s home state, but as observers pointed out Wednesday, many of the victories were by surprising double-digit margins. One called it a “savage beating” of the Illinois GOP, while another referred to it as “a bloodbath.”
At the end of the night, Democrats walked away with 71 seats in the House to the Republicans’ 47. In the Senate, Democrats will have 40 seats to the Republicans’ 19.
Additionally, a Democratic senator will represent the staunchly Republican suburban Chicago county of DuPage for the first time in state history.
Chicagoans send indicted Smith back to the House
West-side Chicagoans overwhelmingly voted to send indicted and expelled state Rep. Derrick Smith, a Democrat, back to his seat in the Illinois House, according to preliminary vote tallies Tuesday night.
Smith earned 63 percent of the vote to defeat his challenger, Lance Tyson, also a Democrat with Democratic backing who ran under the “Unity Party” banner because Smith had won the Democratic primary.
Smith during a news conference Thursday said he is “a new man” and vowed to “devote all my time in making sure to do what I have to do to ensure the constituents of the 10th District get everything they deserve.”
Several factors worked against Tyson, including Democratic-faithful voters’ unfamiliarity with him and the Unity Party name and their long-standing interest in voting for candidates identified as Democrats on the ballot. Also, voters in the predominantly black district said they doubted the charge against Smith and believed he could have been set up by authorities.
A freshman lawmaker, Smith was indicted on a federal bribery charge just days before the March primary. But his primary win secured his spot on the ballot as the candidate for the Democratic Party.
He is accused of accepting a $7,000 bribe related to his work as a state representative. In August, his colleagues in the House kicked him out, giving him the dubious distinction of being the first representative expelled in more than a century.
His win Tuesday night sets him up to return to his 10th District seat in January, because his expulsion applied only to the current General Assembly. A new General Assembly takes office in January, and Smith cannot be expelled for the same infraction more than once.
However, should he be convicted of the federal bribery charge, he would not be allowed to continue serving as a lawmaker.
Ten Illinois counties vote in favor of concealed carry
Voters in 10 Illinois counties on Tuesday expressed their support for the right to carry concealed guns.
Illinois is the only state that does not allow concealed carry. But voters in Adams, Bond, Henry, McDonough, Mercer, Randolph, Rock Island, Schuyler, Stephenson and Warren counties overwhelmingly approved measures supporting concealed carry.
The votes are not binding, though, because local law cannot override state law that prohibits all concealed carry.
Nevertheless, supporters said they hope the votes send a message to Springfield lawmakers that there is support for it.
“I think the message will be heard,” because some counties that voted on the issue were in more Democrat-leaning northwest parts of the state, Valinda Rowe, spokeswoman for IllinoisCarry, a group that tracks gun-rights advocacy around the state, told the Associated Press. “Hopefully (the Democratic leadership) will see a correlation here that there is widespread support for this issue.”
Meanwhile, Gov. Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel have been pushing for stricter gun-control laws and are opposed to concealed carry.