Chris Essig

Walkthroughs, tips and tricks from a data journalist in eastern Iowa

Post-election analysis stories

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While the Illinois primary season officially ended a week ago, neither party knows what their ticket is going to look like in the fall. For one, the Democrats are missing a lieutenant governor. The party is still hurting because their former candidate, Scott Lee Cohen, was engulfed in controversy due to revelations into his past, which included horrific tales of violence, sexual misconduct and steroid use. How much of it is true is unknown. But it was enough for him to bow out of the race on Super Bowl Sunday, just five days after he was nominated. The Dems are surely relieved he stepped down, but they now face a new problem: finding a replacement. Rumors are flying everywhere, but it may be a while before they officially name someone.

One would think this controversy would be the perfect battle cry for Republicans to rally behind their candidate for governor. Just one problem: they don’t have one. State Sen. Bill Brady, of Bloomington, is currently in the lead, but it’s so slim, his opponent, State Sen. Kirk Dillard, of Hinsdale, is refusing to give up before all of the provisional and absentee votes are counted. This leaves their ticket even more in limbo than their opponents on the left.

1. With that in mind, it was interesting to see former Gov. Jim Edgar and David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, give their post-election analysis before a number of movers and shakers Thursday afternoon at a luncheon sponsored by UIS. It was an unprecedented election with unprecedented results. And both acknowledged these points.

The one thing Edgar said that I thought was most interesting was a quick line about how he thought Brady’s 400-vote lead would hold up. Of course, Dillard was Edgar’s chief of staff for a while and Dillard diligently touted his experience under the Edgar administration every day, it seemed, of the election. The fact that he was calling such a close race caught me off guard and eventually became my story:

“I’m saying this as if the 406 votes are going to hold up. I suspect it will,” Edgar said.

Edgar said the key to the Republican race was three candidates from the Chicago area — Dillard, former GOP chairman Andy McKenna and former Attorney General Jim Ryan — split the city vote. All three candidates finished within striking distance of Brady.

“The key factor was geography. It wasn’t ideology,” Edgar said.

A number of media outlets picked up on the story as well, including Capitol Fax, Progress Illinois, Illinois Observer and Illinois Review. It will be interesting to see if Edgar’s prediction comes true in the coming weeks.

2. The governor’s race wasn’t the only one addressed at the luncheon, however. The U.S. Senate race also dominated the conversation and for good reason. This year’s race between Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and Congressman Mark Kirk should be a barn burner. National Republicans are giddy at the chance of winning Obama’s old seat, while Democrats are poised not to be embarrassed in a state that has been predominately blue for quite some time.

Anways, a few quotes from Edgar and Yepsen made it into another story my colleague Mike was working on. Here is a quick look:

“The Republicans have probably one of the best chances in the United States of picking up a Democratic-held Senate seat,” Edgar said of the Illinois race. “Kind of the icing on the cake is this is a seat that Barack Obama held.”

This race will be watched closely, not only in Illinois but across the nation. Stay tuned…

3. Lastly, one other quick point about the primary election: voter turnout was dismal. Officials pinned the voting public at less than 30 percent of registered voters, which is lower than usual. Primary turnout is usually horrendous but many lawmakers blamed the February primary (the earliest in the nation) for this year’s low numbers. I talked to a number of local Lee lawmakers and did a quick story:

State Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, agrees the primary is too early and also is co-sponsoring its move to June. In his district, McLean County reported 22 percent of registered voters made their voices heard Tuesday night, which is a slight increase from the 2006 primary when 20 percent voted. In 2002, turnout was 30 percent.

“I think a big part of it was people not being prepared and ready to a deal with a primary election at this point in time,” he said. “It caught them off guard.”

Moving the primary date is going to be a hot issue this session, especially for the minority party who feel the early primary unfairly gives incumbents an edge. I’ll keep you posted.

Well I’m running out of wind once again, so I’m going to stop this post now. What a doozy! I hope you enjoyed every last word…

Image posted by Flickr user myoldpostcards. It is used under a Creative Commons license.

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