Illinois Republicans still have not gotten over the 2010 Gubernatorial race.
Pat Quinn defeated Bill Brady by 1.5%, or about 32,000 votes, to win a four year term as Illinois governor in an election season that swept Mark Kirk, Dan Rutherford, Judy Barr Topinka and several new Republican Congressman into office. Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan all elected Republican governors in 2010 and yet there we were, poor old Illinois, still not able to elect a Republican governor.
All across the state, Republicans were celebrating Kirk's victory along with Congressmen like Robert Dold and Adam Kinzinger. Yet as they were toasting the winners, volunteers and senior political staffers alike were whispering in the corners about Bill Brady. "What happened?" "How could he lose to Quinn?"
Ever since November 2010, Republicans have been trying to explain how Mark Kirk could win state wide, but Bill Brady couldn't ride his coat tails into office.
The prevailing theory, and I must admit it's one I believed for about a year, was that Mark Kirk won because he was a self-admitted moderate while Bill Brady was too conservative for Illinois voters.
We will never know for sure why some voters picked the Republican for Senator but then didn't pick the Republican for governor. However, the final numbers from that election do reveal something that is worth noting. People automatically assumed that there were tens of thousands of voters who choice Kirk for Senate and then Quinn for Governor on the same ballot. While there is evidence in the numbers to support the idea that about 25K did exactly that, it does not account for the full discrepancy between the votes Kirk received and those Brady received.
Before we begin, it should be noted that about 25,000 more ballots were cast for Governor than Senator. This simply means that about 25,000 people either did not cast a vote for Senate or perhaps attempted to write-in someone.
Mark Kirk received a little more than 1,778,000 votes statewide. Brady tallied about 1,713,000. Thus, Kirk received appx. 65,000 more votes than Brady. Remember, Brady was 32,000 votes short of a win.
So, of those 65,000 people who voted for Kirk but did not vote for Brady, who did they vote for? The overwhelming evidence indicates that the bulk of them voted for a third party candidate. Since neither Scott Lee Cohen nor Rich Whitney offered any grand plans or personal appeal, you have to assume that votes for them were really protest votes against the two major party candidates. There was a third party presence in the Senate race, but they received fewer votes than in the Governor's race and there were 3 third party choices for Governor, but only two for Senate.
So what was the impact of the third party choices on Bill Brady? Let's examine the numbers. In total, 271,000 people voted third party for governor. That is 66K more than the number who voted third party for Senate. What was that number of votes Kirk outperformed Brady by again? 65K. See a correlation?
But wait there's more. In Cook County, the third party candidates for governor received nearly double the votes that those who ran for Senate received. Also in Cook County, Brady under performed Kirk by 41k votes while third party candidates for governor outperformed third party candidates for Senate by 41K votes. Are you getting the picture?
Even in the city of Chicago itself, Kirk received about 14K more votes than Brady while about 50K people voted third party for Governor. Your getting it now, right?
Here's where it really hurts: Brady actually outperformed Kirk in several populations centers outside the Chicago Metro including Springfield, Peoria, Rockford and suburban St. Louis in Madison County. In those counties, it appears that the third party candidates detracted from Pat Quinn and not Bill Brady. The third party damage in the Chicago metro was too significant for Brady to make it up with his over-achievements elsewhere in the state.
Suburban Chicago is perhaps the most painful to examine for Brady backers. Brady fell short of Kirk vote totals in every single Chicago Metro county. He was 12K short in Lake County and 9K short in DuPage County. In both places, third party candidates collected about 7.5% of the total vote.
The further out you go, the more 3rd parties hurt. In Will County where Brady was hoping to open a wide margin over Quinn, 8.7% of the vote went for 3rd parties. In Kane County, third parties picked up 8%.
Brady easily earned majorities in McHenry, DeKalb, Kendall, Grundy, and Kankakee Counties. However, look at the third party influence in each. Third parties earned 9.5% of the vote in McHenry, 10.2% in DeKalb, 9.4% in Kendall, 10.2% in Grundy and 10% in Kankakee. Those are counties in which Brady needed to run up the score but didn't, while third parties overachieved.
Scott Lee Cohen scored 4.9% of the vote or better in 5 suburban Chicago counties and he was the leader among the 3 third party candidates. He cost Bill Brady the election and he helped keep Pat Quinn and the Democrats in iron lock control of Springfield.
Some argue that Cohen and Whitney actually took votes from Quinn and that without their presence, Quinn's margin of victory would have increased.
I reject that idea.
When an incumbent is seeking re-election, voters must first decide whether he deserves a new term or not. 53% of Illinois voters decided that Quinn should not be re-elected. However, of those who decided Quinn was not fit to serve, 13.6% of them also felt Bill Brady did not do enough to earn their vote. More than 270K voters decided it was better to throw away their vote in protest than to support Bill Brady. As it turns out, he only needed to convince 32K of them to make their vote count for him.
Is it because he was too conservative? No. If that were true, his vote totals would have been significantly less than Kirk's and they weren't.
Is it because he failed to present much of a plan? Perhaps.
Is it because he failed to connect on a personal level with voters? Probably.
I believe the single biggest factor was the voter's lack of familiarity with Brady in the Chicago Metro area. Brady did very well all over the state, especially in Central and Southern Illinois. He under performed in the Chicago Metro and it cost him the governorship. His campaign did not spend enough time in Chicago's Collar Counties and in suburban Cook where he could have closed the deal by running up bigger victory margins.
Kirk was a known quantity in Metro Chicago. He was a moderate, who presented thoughtful campaign plans, did connect with voters and spent serious time courting voters in Lake, DuPage, Kane, McHenry and Will Counties.
So a little advise to whomever wants to run in 2014 on the Republican side. Please spend serious time in northeastern Illinois or a Scott Lee Cohen might steal your election, too.
Filed under: State Government