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Dems Retain Ill. Senate Majority, Close In House

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) – Democrats claimed at least 54 seats on their way to retaining a 60-vote majority in the Illinois House, but they continued to battle Tuesday evening to hold onto a big advantage.

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In the Senate, Democrats had won 10 seats to add to 23 Democrats who weren’t facing re-election, meaning the party retains control of that chamber. But the suspected GOP wave could still cost the party the veto-proof margin it’s enjoyed since 2007.

Key Democratic victories in House Speaker Michael Madigan’s chamber went to Daniel Biss in northwest Cook County to replace the retiring Republican Rep. Elizabeth Coulson of Glenview. Freshman Emily McAsey of Crest Hill also held off a Republican challenge.

House Speaker Michael Madigan and President John Cullerton in the Senate had a large money advantage over the GOP in the final weeks of the campaign, but Republicans had funds to stay competitive.

Democrats currently hold a 37-22 advantage in the Senate, a three-fifths majority that allows them to adopt legislation virtually at will. In the House, with 70 Democrats to 48 Republicans, the advantage is just one shy of a similar majority.

But they had kept or padded those majorities in 2008 on the strength of a presidential victory for native son Barack Obama. Two years later, economic woes persist and Obama and congressional Democrats are taking hard knocks over that, taxes and health care.

At home, the state is mired in a budget deficit that could top $15 billion after eight years of Democratic statehouse control. The Legislature impeached and removed Gov. Rod Blagojevich, since convicted on a federal corruption charge.

But his successor, Gov. Pat Quinn, has had little more success in moving lawmakers, particularly in persuading them to raise the income tax rate to bring in new revenue. In his quest to win the governor’s chair outright, Quinn has stumbled not only with his tax proposals but with a secret early prison release program he subsequently halted and hefty raises handed out to his staff during the budget crisis.

At the top of the ticket, state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias ran a tight race with Republican congressman Mark Kirk to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Obama.

Giannoulias’ close contest and Quinn’s battle with Republican state senator Bill Brady leave little coattail to which Democrats running for the Legislature can grab.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.