Hammered for most any problem emanating from Springfield, one would have thought the Democrats had an uphill battle in some state races, particularly those involving Republican incumbents.
But that was not the case Tuesday as a Democratic daily double secured a hunk of northern and parts of central Lake County.
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Sam Yingling bounced three-term Republican incumbent state Rep. Sandy Cole in the 62nd District and Melinda Bush edged Joe Neal in the nip-and-tuck race for the 31st state Senate seat that for a good portion of the evening was a statistical dead heat.
With the candidates receiving more than $1 million in combined contributions, the seat left open when incumbent Republican state Sen. Suzi Schmidt chose not to seek re-election was targeted by both parties.
How were the Democrats able to succeed in both?
"It's a very independent area. People vote for a person, they don't vote for a party," Yingling said Wednesday. "I think that's what you see here."
It's likely a combination of factors. Both Yingling, as Avon Township supervisor, and Bush, a Lake County Board member, are known commodities with name recognition. Both have been campaigning for an extended period with exhaustive door to door efforts.
There also was a heavy party investment. A remap, which dropped much of Lake Villa and Gurnee and consolidated the Round Lake area, may have provided more favorable demographics for Democrats in the 62nd District, observers say, and Cole may have been complacent until it was too late.
Another theory is they said what voters wanted to hear.
"It's this whole culture of blame. The electorate does not respond to people saying 'the evil Michael Madigan' ... they want to hear someone say, `I'm going to deliver results. I'm going to fight for you,'" said Lowell Jaffe, a consultant to Yingling.
"Lake County has been a Republican stronghold but what has it got you? Independent voters, I don't think they buy the rhetoric," he added.
State Sen. Terry Link, Lake County Democratic Party chief, echoed that thought.
"If I tell you your house is burning down and I don't tell you how to put the fire out, what good am I?", he asked.
Yingling ran "one of the most aggressive grass-roots campaign you'll ever see," Link said. "He worked on the ground and she (Cole) took him for granted."
Cole did not respond Wednesday to a call for comment.
Lake County Republican Party head Bob Cook said Democrats spent a lot of money on ads, some of which he described as questionable, but he agreed they "worked very hard to get the vote out."
"I will give him credit, he did the work," Cook said of Yingling.
So did Neal, Cook said, adding he did a "great job" in his first run for office and gave Bush a run for her money. Both Bush and Yingling have vowed to work across the aisle to attack the big issues in Springfield.
Yingling said there was "too much partisan gridlock" in Springfield.
"I'm more solutions driven than party driven, if you will. I'll work with anyone to get the job done," he said.
Yingling declared his candidacy in July 2011, after legislators appeared disinterested in his ideas to reform township government and the property tax system on a trip to Springfield.
Property tax reform remains a priority, Yingling said.
"That's something that affects us on a daily basis," he said.