2014 Illinois Election Day cheat sheet

I realize not everyone spends most of their waking hours thinking about politics and public policy. For those who tune in when there are pending elections, here is a little cheat sheet of what to watch for as the returns come in Illinois tonight:

Control of the United States Senate

Democrats currently hold 53 Senate seats with an additional 2 Independent senators who caucus with them while the GOP holds 45 seats. To win control of the Senate, Republicans need 51 senators, or 6 more than they have today.

There are 36 seats up for election this year, 11 of which are nearly certain to remain Democratic and 13 nearly certain to remain Republican while an additional 4 are very likely to switch from Democratic control to Republican. Assuming the prior statement is true, Republicans need to have a net gain of 2 seats from the 8 remaining races, 2 of which are currently held by the GOP the other 6 by Democrats.

Takeaway: There is a very good chance we will not know if the GOP has won control of the Senate tonight. Many races may be too close to call while others end up in run-offs. If it comes down to Alaska, their polls don't even close until midnight in Chicago. Locally, Dick Durbin is expected to win by double digits over his GOP challenger, Jim Oberweis.

Control of the United States House of Representatives

Republicans currently hold 233 House seats, Democrats hold 199 and there are 3 vacancies. Democrats would need a net gain of 19 to win control of the House.

Every two years, all 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for election. According to Real Clear Politics' average of polls, the Republican majority is safe and the GOP should safely win 226 seats (losing one GOP seat but making up for it by winning a Dem seat in New York) with another 30 categorized as "toss-ups." Twenty of those 30 toss up races are currently held by Democrats. Most polls have Republicans picking up at least 5 seats and perhaps as many at 15. If the GOP picks up at least 9 seats, it will have the largest U.S. House majority since 1946. A pick up of 13 will give the GOP that largest margin in the House since 1928.

Takeaway: Republicans will remain a majority in the House but the exact margin will not be known tonight. Locally, the race to watch is IL-1o between incumbent Demcorat, Brad Schneider, and the former Republican Congressman in that district, Bob Dold. Races in the IL-11th, IL-12, IL-13 and IL-17 are worth keeping and eye on. All except IL-13 are currently held by Democrats.

Illinois Governor

This is an extremely close race between incumbent Governor, Pat Quinn, and his Republican challenger, Bruce Rauner. Polling data shows a statistically tied race, with a slight advantage to Quinn. Chicago and Cook County usually report results before the rest of the state so expect Quinn to have  huge lead out of the gate. Exit poll data and Rauner's numbers in Chicago and suburban Cook County should provide key insights as to whether their strategy is panning out or if they have to hope that collar county and downstate turnout and support was gigantic.

Takeaway: We will probably have a winner by the end of the night. If Quinn's get-out-the-vote operation in Chicago and Cook County replicated it's 2010 success, we could know by 10 or 11pm that he has won. If his campaign workers fell short of their goals and team Rauner fulfilled their promise to turn out 10,000 volunteers across the state to create their own get-out-the-vote army, we could be waiting until midnight or beyond for rural and small town votes to be reported.

Illinois Statewide Officeholders

Democrats Lisa Madigan and Jesse White are each expected to be re-elected as State Attorney General and Secretary of State respectively while Judy Baar Topinka should easily cruise to reelection as State Comptroller. The only real race in this bracket is for State Treasurer between former Republican House Minority Leader, Tom Cross, and Democrat State Senator, Mike Frerichs.

Takeaway: Just as in the race for governor, we may not know the result of this race until late in the evening unless the Cook County/Chicago Democratic turnout machine was in over drive.

Illinois State Senate

Democrats currently hold a 40-19 super-majority in the State Senate. Only 7 seats are being actively contested tonight, 6 Democrat, 1 Republican. It is mathematically impossible for Republicans to win control of the State Senate (they would need a net gain of 11 seats and even if they win every one on the ballot, they would be 5 short). Best case scenario, Republicans hold their seat in the 24th district and find a way to win 5 of the other 6 competitive races and break the Democrat super majority. This is unlikely.

Takeaway: While John Cullerton will still hold a super majority in the State Senate, the margin might be less than it is today and it will be interesting to see how his dynamic Republican opponent, Stephanie Linares, does in head-to-head match up in his north-side, Chicago district. 

Illinois State House

Democrats currently hold a 71-47 super majority in the State House.

All 118 seats are up for election tonight, though only 48 are contested. Republicans would need a net gain of 13 to win an outright majority and end Michael Madigan's reign as Speaker of the House. This is unlikely. Republican minority leader, Jim Durkin, is hoping to have a net gain of at least one to break the super majority and give the Republican minority a more robust voice in state legislation.

Takeaway: Mike Madigan will remain Speaker of the House and it is unclear if he will still have his super majority or if he will lose a couple seats. We may not know for sure tonight.

In conclusion, tonight may not have a real conclusion.

Happy Election Day, everyone!

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