CHICAGO (CBS) — In a major win with national implications for Republicans, businessman Bruce Rauner declared victory over incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn, in one of the most bitterly fought elections in recent Illinois history.
“This election is about bringing back our great state,” Rauner told his supporters Tuesday night. “This is a victory for our taxpayers who need a lower tax burden.”
“The voters have spoken.”
With 99 percent of the vote counted, Rauner was holding a five point edge (about 177,000 votes) over the incumbent Democrat.
Quinn campaign aide Brooke Anderson told CBS 2’s Jay Levine that the governor would wait until all the votes were counted, although the math was clearly not in his favor.
Later, Quinn spoke to supporters around 11:15 p.m. and refused to concede.
“We will never, ever yield until all the votes are in,” said Quinn, adding that it may take a few days to complete that task.
A Quinn loss is also a blow to President Obama, who campaigned vigorously for Quinn, as did First Lady Michelle Obama.
Both sides spent at least $100 million combined and flooded the airwaves with nasty ads. It makes the race one of the most expensive in U.S. history.
Rauner’s message was essentially that Quinn failed to lead the state out of its fiscal quagmire and vowed to shake up Springfield to get the state back to fiscal health.
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Quinn contended that billionaire businessman Rauner lacked political experience, had failed to articulate how he would cut taxes, balance the budget and fund education and was simply trying to buy the election.
The question now is whether Quinn will make the state’s 67 percent income tax hike (from 3 percent to 5 percent) permanent before Rauner takes office.
In the end, it appeared that independent voters held the key and came out in support for Rauner, according to exit polling data from Edison Research, provided to CBS 2.
With polls showing a tight race, Rauner and Quinn campaigned hard to the end to fire up their voters
At campaign stops Sunday, Quinn reaffirmed his commitment to raising the state’s minimum wage.
“If you’re working hard … and raising your family, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty,” he said.
At a field office in Bronzeville on Monday, the governor thanked campaign volunteers for their help. Several key Democratic leaders came out to help Quinn, including U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, Cook County Board PresidentToni Preckwinkle, and U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush.
Illustrating the importance of the race to Democrats, Both Presidents Obama and Clinton visited the state to raise money on Quinn’s behalf.
“We have government of the many, we’re going against government of the money, and I think the many are going to beat the money,” Quinn said. “We’ve got to get everybody who believes in our cause, believes in raising the minimum wage, to come to vote tomorrow, please. It’s all about helping everyday people.”
Rauner also was criss-crossing the state, campaigning with U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk and former Gov. Jim Edgar.
He started the day Monday by meeting a crowd of supporters at Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant in the West Loop, where he said Illinois voters are ready for a change.
“We’ll get a booming economy with more jobs. We’ll get the best schools in America. We’ll bring down the tax burden. And we’re going to rip this patronage system, and this cronyism system out of Springfield,” he said.