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updated: 11/13/2010 7:12 PM

A look at what cost Rauschenberger state Senate seat

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  • Steve Rauschenberger

      Steve Rauschenberger

 
 

Steve Rauschenberger, known for his budget expertise and fiscal conservatism, was a popular state senator for the 14 years he served the 22nd District in the Fox Valley, before leaving in 2006 to make an unsuccessful bid for lieutenant governor.

And, after four years away from the post, he faced one of the most vulnerable types of opponents a freshman Democrat in his bid for re-election.

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He had name recognition. A solid record. A hefty war chest.

Still, all the same, Rauschenberger on Wednesday conceded to Elgin Democrat Michael Noland, with a 555-vote gap between the two candidates, according to unofficial totals.

So, why exactly did Rauschenberger lose?

In an interview shortly after his concession, he pointed to several factors, among them a gerrymandered map, a costly battle to stay on the ballot, and an inability to respond well to several of his opponent's charges.

Eight years ago, when lawmakers redrew legislative districts, a process known as redistricting, the wealthier, western portion of the city was carved out of the district that now covers parts of Elgin, Streamwood, Carpentersville, Hoffman Estates, Schaumburg and Hanover Park.

Cut too was South Elgin, much of which typically pulls Republican.

Eastern Elgin, the portion left in, in recent years, has become poorer and more diverse, according to census and Elgin Area School District U-46 data. Rauschenberger argues it has also become more Democratic.

An analysis of vote totals shows that Rauschenberger lost to Noland by just 146 votes out of 24,585 in Cook County; but in Kane County, he lost by more than 409 votes out of 12,323.

"I think parts of Elgin have changed, and I think the Democratic Party now takes Elgin far more seriously than they did 15 years ago. More resources, more emphasis," Rauschenberger said.

According to data from the Illinois Board of Elections, the Democratic Party poured more than $600,000 into Noland's war chest.

Rauschenberger, in turn, got more than $300,000 from Republicans.

Rauschenberger notes that he had "as much resource as we needed," but also points to a stall in fundraising due to a lengthy court battle to stay on the ballot. The court case stems from a 2009 vote Rauschenberger placed in a local Democratic primary to support his sister. He later filed to run as a Republican in this year's Feb. 2 primary. Lawyers from the Democratic Party argued that his earlier vote should have eliminated him from the Republican ballot.

That fight cost Rauschenberger $30,000 in campaign cash and "chilled fundraising" for the first five months of the campaign, he said.

Rauschenberger also said Noland successfully criticized him in two areas by painting him as an incumbent in the race and for excess spending on the taxpayers' dime.

As the president of the National Conference of State Legislatures, Rauschenberger frequently traveled to conferences in exotic locations Hawaii and Istanbul among them during the earlier part of the decade.

While the travel was conducted through his role with the conference, and during a much healthier economic time, Noland successfully "hammered away" at Rauschenberger for the spending, Rauschenberger said.

"I never effectively answered that," he said.

Does he regret his bid for lieutenant governor?

No.

Rauschenberger said each of his bids for office for state Senate and unsuccessful bids for U.S. Senate, governor and lieutenant governor "were made situationally. Had I never reached for the ring. Had I never offered to argue about education, Medicaid in a different way, had I sat safe in the Senate seat ... I think in a small way (by taking those chances) I changed the public policy discussion."

Noland said Wednesday he believes it was old-fashioned campaigning that made the difference.

"It was shoe leather over the dollars," Noland said. "There was a lot of money invested, but I don't think it was money that won it. I think it was the actual contact with voters. It has always been that way and will always be that way."

Rauschenberger, 54, says he doesn't plan to run for office again, but he does plan to stay in politics.

"You can be in horse racing without being a horse. If Pat Quinn called, if he was creating a bipartisan staff or cabinet, I'd take that in a second."

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