J.B. Pritzker elected governor

Voters remove Rauner in move for change across Illinois, send Underwood, Casten to Congress

 Democrat J.B. Pritzker will be the next governor of Illinois. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

Democrat J.B. Pritzker will be the next governor of Illinois. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

By Ted Cox

J.B. Pritzker will be the next Illinois governor.

Voters elected the billionaire businessman and ousted Republican incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner Tuesday as change swept across the Land of Lincoln and into the U.S. House of Representatives, with congressional candidates Lauren Underwood and Sean Casten also unseating incumbents to help Democrats claim a majority.

NBC declared the race for Pritzker at about 7:30 p.m., less than a half-hour after polling places were scheduled to close and while some polling places that suffered disruptions earlier in the day were still open. The final margin found Pritzker with 54 percent of the vote and Rauner with 39 percent.

Pritzker’s victory speech emphasized overcoming adversity, going back to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 — a strong message for a state facing well over $100 billion in unfunded pensions. But he didn’t shy from the challenge.

“There is a special faith in the future,” he said. “This is Illinois — full of light that comes from the people who endure and overcome struggle. That light brought triumph tonight.

“Who we are is how we overcome our biggest challenges,” he added. “Ladies and gentlemen, rise we will. We make no small plans for Illinois.

“Your history, no matter how difficult or painful, shapes your future, sometimes in wonderful ways. Sometimes the happiest moments of your life wouldn't have been possible without the hardest moments of your life.”

Pritzker spoke of how small, struggling communities mustn’t be left behind to fend for themselves, and he cheered small-business owners, saying, “Their struggle is the struggle to build an economy for everyone across Illinois.”

He finished by challenging his supporters on whether they were prepared to fight for health care for all, well-paid teachers and quality education, equal pay for equal work, criminal-justice reform, “environmental policies that are based on science,” a responsible state budget, gun-safety laws, jobs with living wages and strong labor unions — and finally “for a state that welcomes immigrants, and for the truth.”

Sources reported that Rauner made a gracious concession call to Pritzer, and the governor tweeted on his personal account, “It’s been an honor to serve. Thank you, Illinois.”

In remarks to supporters, he said, “This is a time to express our deepest appreciation. It’s been a privilege, it’s been an honor to serve you, to serve all the people of our great state.”

Rauner, who relied so much on divisiveness in his campaign, was gracious in defeat and called for unity. “This is a time for us to come together. This is a time for us to unite,” he said, and “put aside partisan politics.”

In the race for attorney general, where Erika Harold positioned herself late in the campaign as a Republican check on Democratic statewide officials, she conceded to state Sen. Kwame Raoul midway through the evening at about 8:30. At the time, Raoul led with 57 percent of the vote to Harold’s 41 percent.

Sean Casten unseated six-term U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam in the 6th Congressional District, and his fellow Democratic challenger Lauren Underwood beat four-term U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren in the 14th District. Betsy Dirksen Londrigan was running strong against Congressman Rodney Davis midway through the evening, but Congressman Mike Bost held on to his seat in the 12th District.

 “Unbought and unbossed,” Lauren Underwood told supporters, “Courage is grounded in choosing to act. This victory is your victory.” (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

“Unbought and unbossed,” Lauren Underwood told supporters, “Courage is grounded in choosing to act. This victory is your victory.” (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

Underwood cited how Shirley Chisholm was first elected to Congress 50 years ago, and like her she was “unbought and unbossed.”

“Tonight is not about me,” she told supporters. “It’s about you.

“You stood up and declared this community deserves better,” Underwood added. “Courage is grounded in choosing to act. … This victory is your victory.”

According to KMOV-TV, CNN projected Londrigan as the winner in the 13th district, but Davis pulled ahead by about 1,500 votes with 98 percent of precincts reporting. NBC called it for the incumbent, but the Bloomington Pantagraph said it was still too close to call. Davis nonetheless claimed victory shortly before midnight.

In the 3rd District in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, Democrat Dan Lipinski won re-election, but Arthur Jones, a neo-Nazi nationalist and Holocaust denier running as the Republican nominee, garnered more than a quarter of all votes, 26 percent.

Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, of Chicago, won election to Congress, replacing Luis Gutierrez.

Comptroller Susana Mendoza and Treasurer Mike Frerichs won re-election.

The Daily Herald reported that Cook County Commissioner Timothy Schneider, head of the state Republican Party, lost his bid for re-election to 28-year-old Kevin Morrison. His Republican colleague Gregg Goslin also lost, to Scott Britton.

The Herald also reported that Democrat Terra Costa Howard unseated state Rep. Peter Breen, the House Republican floor leader, who received strong backing in television ads from Dan Proft’s Liberty Principles Political Action Committee in the closing days of the campaign. Politico Illinois reported that Democrats claimed a supermajority in the state House, even with the 51st District still in play as — in the scenario all voters are warned about — a single vote separated Republican Helene Miller Walsh from Democrat Mary Edly-Allen, with Walsh on top, 25,106 to 25,105.

Judge Matthew Coghlan failed to earn retention, becoming the first Cook County judge in 28 years to be voted out.

Nationally, Republicans retained control of the Senate, but Democrats claimed a majority in the House.