Former Illinois GOP Leaders Predict 2010 Repeat of 1994
By Christopher Bedford
Before the 1994 elections, the Illinois state government leaned Republican with the six statewide offices split between the two parties; the Illinois Senate held by Republicans; and the Illinois House held by Democrats. Republicans won in a landslide in November 1994, taking control of all six statewide offices and both legislative chambers.
The election in November 1994 changed the balance of Illinois state government. In January 1995, Republicans controlled all six statewide offices and held majorities in both legislative chambers.
Since 2006, the Democrats have held nearly total control over Illinois, with majorities in both houses and control of five statewide offices (the office of Illinois lieutenant governor is vacant).
Dawn Clarke Netsch (D), a former Illinois comptroller who lost her bid to win the governorship in 1994, and who now teaches law at Northwestern University, says voters’ attitudes heading into this general election are similar to the ones she observed in 1994 and could reflect what is happening in the national races.
“There is a lot of anti-government feeling…and the sense of frustration one picks up on part of the voters,” she said.
Longtime statehouse observer and former press secretary to Gov. Jim Edgar (R), Mike Lawrence, says straight-ticket voting is one mechanism that Illinois voters had in 1994 that might have helped Republicans win so convincingly in that election. Straight-ticket voting allowed voters to select all candidates of one party on their ballot. It was outlawed in 1997.
“They can’t [vote straight-ticket] today,” he says. “When you do have a trend in favor of one party or the other, it typically is accentuated” with straight-ticket voting.
Lawrence also says Edgar’s influence as a popular incumbent may have contributed to a Republican sweep of statewide offices and majorities in both legislative chambers.
This November, Republicans won’t have the luxury of an incumbent at the top of the ticket. But Denny Jacobs, a former Democratic state senator who served the Quad-Cities, believes thousands of Democratic voters, who turned out for the 2008 Obama-McCain election, are not energized for 2010.
“They’ve already said goodbye,” says Jacobs. “The voting bloc that (Obama) brought in isn’t going to be there this election.” Voters will have their say on Illinois’ statewide races on November 2.