UPDATED 11/2/10 12:11 a.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — The race for Illinois governor is coming down to the wire, with Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn holding a razor-thin lead over Illinois State Sen. Bill Brady.
Official results showed that as of 12:06 a.m., with 97 percent of precincts reporting, Quinn was leading Brady by about 8,000 votes, with both candidates holding approximately 46 percent of the vote. Independent Scott Lee Cohen had 4 percent, Green Party candidate Rich Whitney had 3 percent and Libertarian Lex Green had 1 percent.
Earlier in the night, Quinn had as much as 64 percent of the vote, but those results were based largely on Chicago and Cook County votes and the race has gotten tighter as more results from the collar counties and downstate Illinois have come in.
Although Brady closed the gap significantly, it was clear that he would not win by the 7 percent margin his campaign had expected. In fact, of the 3 million votes that were expected to be cast, it was expected that the final margin would come down to less than 1 percent of the vote.
Brady addressed his supporters at his campaign headquarters in Bloomington shortly after midnight to tell them nothing would be decided anytime soon.
“Some of you may have realized by now I have a penchant for close elections,” Brady said. He won the Republican primary by fewer than 200 votes and won his first race for the Illinois House in 1992 by only eight votes.
“Clearly, with over 3.5 million votes cast, this isn’t going to be decided tonight,” Brady told his supporters. “We are excited and optimistic, but we want to make sure every voter in the state of Illinois has the right to have their vote counted. … We don’t know if you want to stay tomorrow night as well, but we do know that we’re going to work through this quickly to get this process done.”
Quinn was also expected to address his supporters at the Hotel Allegro in downtown Chicago sometime after midnight.
Adviser Dennis Gannon, former president of the Chicago Federation of Labor, told CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov that Quinn was hopeful, “but you’re gonna be nervous. He’s running for … the prize of all prizes here, the governor of the state of Illinois, but I think the buzz in this room, I think reflects where we believe we’re at.”
Gannon said the razor-thin margin was no surprise.
“I think that this is exactly where we thought we’d be. All our models are right on target,” Gannon said. “I think that at the end of the day that we’re gonna win this thing and things are gonna be very good here in the state of Illinois, when we can put people back to work and do what we should do for the folks and that’s jobs, it’s all about jobs.”
Quinn is in the fight of his political life on Tuesday, hoping voters will give him a full term in office, after serving two years in the state’s highest office after former Gov. Rod Blagojevich was kicked out of office amid a corruption scandal. But Republican Illinois State Sen. Bill Brady has staged a strong bid to oust the Democratic incumbent, blaming Quinn and his predecessor for the state’s financial woes.
Brady, a state senator from Bloomington, has attacked Quinn for wanting to raise the state income tax. Quinn, fighting to keep the job he inherited from Blagojevich, charged that Brady would decimate education and social services if elected.
Both candidates spent much of the day Tuesday making last-minute appeals for votes in a tight race that has been filled with attack ads for weeks.
Brady has led in most polls for weeks and his campaign was optimistic Tuesday that those numbers would hold up. They took comfort in strong turnout in downstate Illinois, in particular in his hometown of Bloomington, where some voters had to wait 45 minutes or more to cast their ballots when they arrived at the polls.
“Everywhere where we focused, we’ve heard good things,” Brady said after voting on Tuesday.
A confident Quinn voted at a Chicago church and told reporters he ran a good campaign, with no regrets.
“I’m an optimistic person. I believe we will win the election,” he said.
Brady has been leading in the polls for some time. The state senator from downstate Bloomington spent part of his Halloween campaigning in usually Democratic Chicago, trying to link Quinn to his disgraced processor, Rod Blagojevich.
“People are fed up with what’s been going on in Illinois for the last eight years, and particularly the last two years,” Brady said earlier this week. “They’re looking for a better thing to believe in, and we’re providing that.”
Quinn is running against a tide that national pundits say will flush many incumbents from office. But he said he has the best plan to create jobs in Illinois.
The governor has remained on the attack in the final countdown to the election.
“Sen. Brady is an extremist — he’s run an extreme campaign,” Quinn said Monday.
Whoever wins the race will have a monumental problem on his hands. The state’s $13 billion budget deficit adds up to a debt of about $1,007.75 for every man, woman and child in Illinois.
Appearing on the CBS 2 Morning News just after the polls opened Tuesday, Quinn said despite the ballooning deficit, the economy is improving. He said funding education is sure to bring returns.
“Our economy is recovering. This year, we’ve created more jobs than any other state in the Midwest, and that’s part of it. We have to get a stronger economy,” Quinn said. “We have to invest in education; I’ve said that consistently from the beginning.”
In a separate appearance on the CBS 2 Morning News, Brady blamed Quinn and his predecessor, deposed Gov. Rod Blagojevich, for the mushrooming deficit. But he, too, said there are still opportunities to invest, although he did not specify how.
“We’re not bankrupt. We have $13 billion in deficits. Gov. Quinn and Gov. Blagojevich have put us in a deep hole, but we still have great resources to reinvest in the people of Illinois; to rebuild our job environment, to make our economy work,” Brady said. “That’s what this is all about. It’s about the opportunity in front of us. We can’t just focus on about the liabilities. But we do have to solve the liabilities. We’ve got to pay down the deficit and debt.”
Attack ads have dominated the campaign for weeks, with Quinn repeatedly criticizing Brady for not paying federal income taxes in 2008 and 2009. But Brady did not owe any federal income taxes in those years because his homebuilding business had suffered big losses amid the housing crisis.
Quinn has also attacked Brady over legislation he sponsored to allow the mass killing of pets. Brady sponsored the bill just two days after the Republican primary in February, but has since withdrawn his sponsorship and said he would veto his own proposal because “the people of Illinois don’t want it.”
Brady has repeatedly slammed Quinn for “secret” release of prisoners under the since discontinued MGT Push program, and said Quinn “clearly has continued the legacy of Gov. Blagojevich,” but said pointing this out is not negative, “necessarily.”
But perhaps the most scathing attack of the campaign came from neither Brady nor Quinn. In late October, Democratic State Sen. Rickey Hendon was introducing Quinn at a get out the vote rally when he went on a tirade against Brady.
“I’ve never served with such an idiotic, racist, sexist, homophobic person in my life,” Hendon said. “If you think that the minimum wage need to be three dollars an hour, vote for Bill Brady. If you think that women have no rights whatsoever, except to have his children, vote for Bill Brady. If you think gay and lesbian people need to be locked up and shot in the head, vote for Bill Brady.”
Quinn has tried to distance himself from that attack, saying he doesn’t agree with those remarks, but has refused calls from Brady to apologize for what Hendon said.
CBS 2’s Jay Levine and Dana Kozlov and The Associated Press contributed to this report.