GOP Tsunami Re-Shapes Congress, Governor's Race Too Close

By Chuck Sudo in News on Nov 3, 2010 1:30PM

Capitalizing on voter concerns of the economy and the spark provided by the Tea Party movement, the Republican Party staged what Illinois Senator-elect Mark Kirk called "a tsunami in the heartland," taking control of the House of Representatives and gaining enough seats in the Senate to make life miserable for Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Democratic majority there. "The American people's voice was heard at the ballot box," said the incoming House Speaker, Ohio's John Boehner.

Throughout Illinois last night, results showed incumbent congressmen losing their seats to Republican challengers. The symbolic victory was won by Kirk, who won the hotly contested race for the Senate seat formerly held by President Obama. Kirk, who stood in front of a 48-star American flag in declaring victory, said, "This senate seat has been returned to its rightful owners: the people of Illinois." Kirk's challenger, Alexi Giannoulias, was gracious in defeat, saying of Kirk, "I think he will make a good senator. I think he will make a strong senator." Kirk also reached out to Giannoulias at the conclusion of a toxic campaign, where the main issue focused on the character of the candidates, for a beer at Billy Goat Tavern downtown this evening.

Meanwhile, the race for Illinois Governor is still too close to call, although that didn't stop Governor Pat Quinn from declaring victory. "The people have won, and I believe we have won," Quinn told supporters shortly before 1 a.m. Quinn's lead over Brady is less than 11,000 votes, giving Brady a slight glimmer of hope that he can make up the difference with the counting of late-reporting precincts and absentee ballots.

The GOP thrashing was a stunning rebuke of President Obama's agenda. Obama seemed to grasp the gravity of the situation at the Midway Plaisance Democratic pep rally last weekend, but it ultimately turned out to be too little, too late. If there was a candidate who seemed to benefit from Obama's eleventh-hour rub, it was Quinn, who reminded voters and pundits that he's a fighter in the weeks leading up to the election.

In other notable local races, Toni Preckwinkle handily won the race for County Board President and Joe Berrios defeated Forrest Claypool for County Assessor in a race that was as much a final slap at outgoing Assessor Jim Houlihan (who backed Claypool) as it was Claypool.

The GOP wave also cost state Democrats their veto-proof majority in Springfield. If there is a silver lining for Illinois Democrats, it's that, as the majority party in Springfield in a redistricting year, they'll be able to redraw some of the congressional districts based on census data, which could possibly put some of the GOP congressmen in danger two years from now.