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updated: 11/6/2012 11:10 PM

Suburban Democrats make big gains at state Capitol

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Winning many of the hottest races in the suburbs, Democrats once again will control the Illinois Capitol in Springfield thanks to a big night for the party in the suburbs.

Big suburban wins meant Democrats were positioned to even add to their already sizable majorities in Springfield, perhaps taking as much as a 21-vote advantage in the 59-member Illinois Senate, pending final results. The House Democrats appeared positioned to gain on their 10-vote margin in that chamber as well.

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Democrats successfully protected many of their suburban incumbents, fending off challenges to state Reps. Carol Sente of Vernon Hills, Michelle Mussman of Schaumburg, Fred Crespo of Hoffman Estates and state Sens. Dan Kotowski of Park Ridge and Mike Noland of Elgin.

And the party picked up new seats in the Illinois House thanks to wins by Des Plaines Mayor Marty Moylan and, in Lake County, Sam Yingling, as well as Senate seats via Democrats Melinda Bush of Grayslake and Julie Morrison of Deerfield. Democrat Tom Cullerton of Villa Park was also leading Republican state Sen. Carole Pankau in DuPage County late Tuesday.

Nekritz argued it was clear voters rejected Republicans' attempts to tie incumbents to House Speaker Michael Madigan, a powerful Chicago Democrat who controlled much of his party's campaign strategy.

"It just didn't work," she said.

Republicans, though, fought off Madigan's attempts to elect Independent Dee Beaubien in the Barrington area, as David McSweeny led that race for the Illinois House. And Republican Jim Oberweis of Sugar Grove won a seat in the Illinois Senate after failed bids for Congress and governor.

The stakes are high for the class of lawmakers that will be sworn in at the beginning of January. Among major issues before them is the state's income tax increase, which will roll back in two years unless lawmakers vote to extend it.

And the budget battles they'll likely wage in the meantime over how much money to spend on schools and care for the disabled and poor could define the state's precarious financial position for the coming years.

Democrats' ability to stay in power statewide is at least partly thanks to the new political map they drew. It created pickup opportunities for the party throughout the suburbs.

Now, Democrats have a 64-54 advantage in the House and a 35-24 majority in the Senate, and their margins are set to increase, perhaps substantially.

Democrats have controlled the Illinois Senate since the 2002 election, and the party has controlled the House for more than 30 years, with only a two-year window of Republican control in the mid-1990s.

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