Redistricting played a major role in deciding the race for the 59th Representative District, as Democratic state Rep. Carol Sente ended Republican state Rep. Sidney Mathias' 14-year tenure in the Illinois House Tuesday night.
In the only Illinois battle for the Statehouse between two incumbents, unofficial results with all 63 precincts in Cook and Lake counties reporting showed Sente getting 55 percent of the vote and winning with 14,887 votes to Mathias' 11,940 votes.
Sente, running for her second term, benefitted from a Democratic remap based on the 2010 Census that left Mathias living in a district more than 90 percent new.
"This was 90 percent my district. These people knew me," Sente said.
Mathias acknowledged he was a victim of redistricting.
"There is no question about it. You can see the difference between my race four years ago, which was a totally Obama year -- and I still won handily, and today, where the district was stacked against me. So redistricting certainly played a major role in this -- along with a million dollars of Mike Madigan's money," he said with a laugh, in an exaggerated reference to the House speaker's heavy backing of Sente's campaign.
But Sente said there were other important factors in her victory, one of which was Sente's ability to relentlessly ring doorbells. In the most literal sense, this campaign was won in a walk.
"It's been a long road," Sente said Tuesday. "I never walked so much, ever," she said.
Another factor was Sente's message, as she pushed a platform that included property tax relief and pension reform.
Sente spoke with urgency about the work ahead, saying, "People are frustrated and they have expectations and we have to get it done this session."
The matchup drew lots of attention and tens of thousands of dollars from both parties as each side tried to protect its incumbent member.
Mathias was philosophical in defeat.
"My loss is my children and my grandchildren's win," he said. "I can now spend a lot more time out East with my family. Rita (his wife) and I certainly can also spend a lot more time together."
Reflecting on a career that included a tenure as Buffalo Grove village president, he said, "I don't look at it as a loss. I have been in politics now for 30 years. So I have no regrets. When one door closes, another one will open."
The 59th House District includes parts of parts of Buffalo Grove, Green Oaks, Gurnee, Indian Creek, Lake Bluff, Lake Forest, Lincolnshire, Long Grove, Mettawa, Mundelein, Northbrook, North Chicago, Park City, Riverwoods, Vernon Hills, Waukegan and Wheeling.