Blagojevich, Republican wave lead to stunning elections in Ill
St. Louis – The Republican wave in the United States created a huge symbolic victory for the party in Illinois.
Republican Congressman Mark Kirk defeated Alexi Giannoulias, the Democratic state treasurer, to capture the Senate seat once held by President Obama.
The seat was at the center of the corruption scandal that led to former Governor Rod Blagojevich's conviction for lying to federal investigators. And that, Kirk told supporters, led to "dark days" for the state.
"Blagojevich tried to sell it. Democrats blocked a special election to fill it, but tonight the sun set on a one party corrupt state," he told supporters gathered in Wheeling, Ill., a northwest suburb of Chicago.
Kirk, who will get to take office immediately because he also won the special election to fill the last two months of President Obama's term, told his supporters he would continue to puch for fiscal responsibility, lower taxes, and deficit reduction.
The campaign had been nasty from the start. And while Giannoulias was conciliatory in his concession speech, his supporters in Chicago weren't ready to bury the hatchet.
"I think he will make a strong Senator," Giannoulias said, trying to quiet the crowd as supporters booed and one shouted, "He's a liar." "Kirk is our Senator, and he's going to help a lot of people."
Kirk had ripped Giannoulias for his close ties to the President, and for his family's bank, which made loans to businessmen with criminal backgrounds and alleged mob ties. The bank was also taken over by the federal government.
For its part, the Giannoulias campaign jumped on reports in the New York Times and other media outlets that Kirk had made significant exaggerations in his military service and other items on his resume.
The governor's race in Illinois remained too close to call on Wednesday morning. With 93 percent of the precincts reporting, incumbent Pat Quinn - who was elevated to the post when Blagojevich was impeached for corruption - held an 11,000-vote lead over Republican state Senator Bill Brady, of more than 3 million cast.
Brady, who was first elected to the state House by an eight-vote margin in 1993, won the 2010 Republican primary by less than 200 votes. He remained optimistic while addressing supporters on Tuesday night.
"As some of you have realized by now I have a penchant for close elections," he said. "It seems to be something that always ends up on the right side, but "
Absentee and overseas ballots won't come in until later this month. But an attorney for Gov. Quinn, Burt Odelson, said he considered the race over.
"There not enough votes down state to make up the difference between what's left in Cook County and what's left downstate," Odelson said. "So Pat Quinn's going to win the election."
The state Board of Elections will certify the results. The loser can then ask for a "discovery recount," which allows him to check over a quarter of the ballots in each jurisdiction. The candidate then has the right to contest the election. Former Gov. Blagojevich cast a shadow over a state House race in the Metro East. Republican Dwight Kay soundly defeated Blagojevich ally Jay Hoffman, knocking the Democrat from a seat he held since 1991.
And perhaps fed up with seemingly endemic corruption in the governor's mansion, Illinois voters approved a constitutional amendment that allows the recall of a sitting governor.
--Reporters in Springfield and Chicago contributed to this story