UPDATED: 11/03/10 5:40 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – The race for Illinois governor remains undecided, with both candidates saying they want all the votes counted and believing they will emerge with the victory.
As of 5:15 p.m., Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn was leading his Republican challenger Bill Brady by more than 16,000 votes.
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CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports that neither candidate was backing down Wednesday, with both the Quinn and Brady campaigns predicting victory.
Brady and his young running mate Jason Plummer tried to put a brave face on the clearly disappointing results.
Brady told reporters on Wednesday that counting all the outstanding ballots will be a “30-day process,” and “I believe we will win.”
“I believe we will win. Our campaign continues to wait for the results from the local officials. The people of Illinois have cast over 3.6 million votes in this election and as of right now, the difference is less than one vote per precinct,” Brady said Wednesday morning.
But since then, Quinn has extended his lead to nearly one-and-a-half votes per precinct.
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Quinn’s campaign disagreed with Brady’s assessment of the results.
“The ballots left to be counted appear mostly to come from Cook County, where the Governor held a large margin over Senator Brady. We expect to hold our lead, and may increase it. We do not see a path to victory for Bill Brady,” Quinn’s campaign said in a statement.
Much earlier Wednesday morning, Quinn stopped just short of claiming victory, telling supporters “The people have won and I believe we have won,” but acknowledging there were more votes to be counted before the race is over.
Brady was reluctant to explain how he expected to pull out a victory, given the latest results. He would not specify where he believed the winning votes would come from.
“I know we’re all anxious for this to be over, but it’s most important that we allow for the process to take place and there’s certain things that we’re not going to be able to answer for you until the State Board of Elections certifies the election,” Brady said.
Brady’s campaign finance director, Ron Gidwitz, pointed to 2,400 uncounted ballots in Rockford and 5,000 in McHenry County, where Brady should do well. But it’s unknown exactly how many ballots are still uncounted in Chicago and suburban Cook County, where Brady fared poorly.
A Quinn spokesman said that most of the remaining votes to be counted are in the Democratic strongholds of Chicago and surrounding Cook County.
In the basement of the Cook County Administration Building, clerk’s office staffers spent the morning sorting absentee ballots by precinct and township.
“Now, because we’re faced with an exceedingly close race for governor, so, that totally changes this,” Cook County Clerk David Orr said. “This means that there could be a fascinating two-week process now, while we try and determine, actually, who won.”
Meanwhile, Brien Sheahan, one of the top Republican Party attorneys in Illinois, huddled with other members of the GOP team. He said it’s possible that Brady could make up the difference and come out victorious.
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“There are probably 13 or 14,000 absentee ballots in Chicago and Cook County. There are probably that many more around the rest of the state. We’ve had reports that in some counties like McHenry, there have been some early votes that haven’t been accounted for,” Sheahan said.
More absentee ballots are expected to continue to arrive in the mail in the next week or so. But half of the uncounted votes are from Cook County where Governor Quinn has long lived and is expected to run strong.
Still, Republicans aren’t counting out Brady yet, and that is why Sheahan and lawyers like him are fanning out across the state to make sure every vote is counted.
So could Brady emerge as the winner when all this is over?
“I think it may be a challenge, but I don’t think it would be out of the realm of possibility,” Sheahan said.
CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli, Dana Kozlov, and Chief Correspondent Jay Levine contributed to this report.