Analysis: Big numbers in suburbs mean big Rauner win
On a cold January morning, Republican businessman Bruce Rauner was taking heavy criticism from his primary election opponents during a debate in Mount Prospect.
He was trying to portray himself as a change from the Illinois political establishment.
Rauner called it a "beat up Brucey" morning and chalked up the attacks to his efforts as a rookie candidate to "shake up Springfield" from the outside.
"The reason I'm being attacked is I've got a message that's resonating with the voters," Rauner said.
In the end, he appeared to be right.
With thousands of ballots still to be counted, The Associated Press projected Rauner the victor, even though Quinn wasn't conceding late Tuesday night.
Rauner rode big vote margins in the collar counties that far outpaced the 2010 GOP effort and was poised to become the first Republican in the Illinois governor's mansion in a dozen years.
The Winnetka businessman's anti-tax message appeared to resonate in the relatively wealthy suburbs, and the massive effort to get voters to the polls he bragged about for months perhaps proved effective when the votes were counted.
"The suburbs were absolutely critical," said Republican state Sen. Matt Murphy of Palatine. "He's not governor without the suburbs, period. People in the collar counties understand the Illinois governor has not worked for years. He gave them an alternative and they took it."
Where state Sen. Bill Brady pulled 50 percent of the votes in Lake County four years ago,
Rauner got 58 percent. Where Brady pulled 54 percent in DuPage County four years ago, Rauner got 60 percent.
Where Brady got 57 percent in McHenry County, Rauner got 66 percent. And where Brady pulled 54 percent in Kane County, Rauner appeared to pull more.
Those kinds of numbers, plus a strong showing in traditionally Republican downstate, helped Rauner swamp Quinn's dominance in Cook County.
"With the help of Bruce, the Illinois state party ... has built the greatest ground game Illinois has ever seen, and that has really produced tonight," Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider said.
Suburban Democrats pointed to an anti-incumbent mood seen throughout Illinois. State Sen. Terry Link, a Waukegan Democrat and leader of the Lake County party, said Democrats for Statehouse seats in the suburbs won by smaller margins than two years ago.
Plus, Link said, Rauner's ability to flood the TV airwaves with record spending with ads didn't hurt.
"You shouldn't be able to do that in an election," Link said.
•Daily Herald staff writer Melissa Silverberg contributed to this story.