Local Democrats power past Rauner machine with fists
Republican Bruce Rauner dominated in the suburban collar counties Tuesday. He managed to persuade a huge number of voters to vote Republican in the governor's race.
But those GOP votes didn't always trickle down the ballot.
Everywhere Rauner won, Democrats running for the Illinois House -- some of them freshmen who are often among the most politically vulnerable lawmakers -- also won.
How is that possible?
The Democratic lawmakers used their fists.
To knock on doors.
"The incumbents, first and foremost, worked very hard," said state Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat who was re-elected Tuesday.
State Rep. Tom Morrison, a Palatine Republican, says Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan's narrow success in protecting all his suburban members is no secret. After all, as the old saying goes, "all politics is local."
"He puts his candidates on an aggressive door-knocking program," Morrison said.
Connect with voters, and maybe they'll vote for you.
State Rep. Marty Moylan, a Des Plaines Democrat and one of Tuesday's freshman winners, is well-known for walking neighborhoods, talking to anyone he can.
"People who have tan faces and tan hands are out walking," Moylan has said. "People who have the tan bodies are lying on the beach."
Is that it?
There are other factors, of course.
Democrats in 2011 drew the political maps in Illinois to help themselves, getting a head start in elections until 2022.
And lawmakers this spring punted on tough decisions on the state budget. That meant no politically risky votes on spending cuts or tax hikes that could show up in mailers.
While Republicans on the campaign trail often backed some of the same priorities as Rauner, Democrats didn't always sound like Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn. Most suburban Democrats have opposed extending the 2011 tax increase, contradicting Quinn's pitch as they walked down streets and knocked on doors.
Local Democrats, as usual, had more money to spend on their races, and it showed in spending reports. In the end, advertising from talk radio host Dan Proft and millions of dollars Rauner sent to the state party weren't enough to help elect more Republicans to the Illinois House.
The consequences are, however, that Rauner will not have as many allies in Springfield as he tries to implement an agenda we'll learn more about in the coming months. New lawmakers take the oath of office in January, and though some races remain close as votes are still being counted,
Democrats could hold a 39-20 advantage in the Illinois Senate and 71-47 margin in the House.
State Rep. David McSweeney, a Barrington Hills Republican, said Rauner is now poised to help GOP House and Senate candidates big time in 2016.
"He is the undisputed leader of our party," McSweeney said.
Did Rauner do enough to help out other candidates this time?
"Remember," McSweeney said, "he had his own race."