Rauner claims victory, Quinn says not so fast
Winnetka businessman and first-time candidate Bruce Rauner claimed victory as Illinois' first Republican governor in a dozen years, breaking Democrats' hold of Springfield and riding a wave of suburban support to a new home in the governor's mansion.
He portrayed himself as an agent of change for a state government that often draws the ire of voters and as an outsider who wouldn't be corrupted like Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn's two predecessors.
"This is a victory for every family in Illinois," Rauner told supporters. "Are you ready for a new direction?"
Rauner pulled ahead via a barrage of advertising paid for with his personal fortune and his constant labeling of Quinn as a "failure."
"It's so sad," Mark Maher of Villa Park said from the Quinn election night party in Chicago. "Pat Quinn is a good man. It just shows that our country is for sale."
But Quinn didn't concede.
"There's still a lot of votes to be counted," Quinn told supporters. "I don't believe in throwing in the towel."
Later, Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson insisted that "thousands, if not hundreds of thousands" of ballots hadn't been counted yet.
But analysts were pointing to Rauner's lead as seeming too large for Quinn to overcome.
Rauner used big vote margins in the suburbs to overwhelm Quinn's support in Cook County.
The financial and political challenges that await the winner are immense and could dwarf the difficulty of the historic campaign.
Rauner wooed suburban voters by saying he'd freeze property taxes, but he has not said how he'd accomplish it. And while he's proposed extending sales taxes to some services, the money generated likely wouldn't cover the big budget gap that will be left if the state's income rate drops Jan. 1 as scheduled.
But Tuesday night was one of celebration for Republicans.
Jim and Lenice Colangelo of Elmhurst donned navy and pink Rauner T-shirts with the number 14 on the back at Rauner's party downtown.
"I've never been involved with something like this, but we're feeling good," she said. "I can't wait to see this happen."
Rauner, a wealthy businessman from Winnetka, worked to fight off stories about the darker parts of his business record and make the case that someone with no political debts to pay at the Capitol could best lift Illinois out of its financial troubles in the next four years.
Quinn, a lifelong player in Illinois politics, similarly had to answer tough questions about his effectiveness in office. He argued Rauner's sparse plans for the state's finances could derail progress Quinn had made over six years in office, leading to painful cuts to schools, universities and services for people with disabilities.
Quinn entered the race labeled as one of the most vulnerable incumbent governors in America. He had both raised income taxes and fought employee unions to try to save the state money via big cuts to teachers' and state workers' retirement benefits.
But in a state that leans Democratic, Quinn could brag about signing same-sex marriage into law and a push to raise the minimum wage, an idea he used as a bludgeon against Rauner as the businessman's position on the issue changed over the course of the campaign.
Rauner, meanwhile, emerged from a crowded primary in March as the favorite after barely surviving a union push to nominate Republican Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale.
Illinois remains more than $5 billion behind on paying its bills.
The state needs a pricey new road and bridge construction plan.
The Illinois Supreme Court is poised to perhaps reject a bipartisan plan to cut the state's huge retirement costs.
And some Democrats want to change how the state pays for its schools, a move that could see a huge amount of state money pulled from suburban school districts.
The winner won't need to wait long to face those challenges. Lawmakers are set to reconvene in Springfield in 15 days.
• Daily Herald staff writers Burt Constable and Melissa Silverberg, and the Associated Press contributed to this report.