NPR logo Illinois Senate: Kirk Easily Takes GOP Primary, Closer Win For Giannoulias Among Dems

Illinois Senate: Kirk Easily Takes GOP Primary, Closer Win For Giannoulias Among Dems

Rep. Mark Kirk, a moderate five-term congressman, easily won the Republican nomination for the Senate seat currently held by appointee Roland Burris (D). On the Democratic side, state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, with the backing of much of the party establishment, won a hard-fought three-way battle over former Chicago city inspector General David Hoffman and Chicago Urban League head Cheryle Jackson.

With 92 percent of precincts counted, Kirk received 56.6 percent of the vote, far outdistancing his lesser-known, and more conservative, opponents, including real estate developer Patrick Hughes (in second with 19.3 percent), former judge Don Lowery, researcher Kathleen Thomas, consultant Andy Martin and John Arrington.

It was much more competitive on the Democratic side, as Giannoulias bested Hoffman, a first-time candidate, 39 percent to 34 percent, with Jackson trailing at 19.5. Hoffman conceded before 10 p.m. Central time.

This race is one that Republicans are hoping to wrest away from the Democrats in November. The victory for Scott Brown in last month's Massachusetts Senate race has given the GOP hopes in other normally blue states, such as Illinois. As devastating as it was for the Democrats to lose the seat Ted Kennedy held for nearly 47 years, losing the Illinois seat — once held by Barack Obama — might be worse for the party. But we're jumping ahead of ourselves here; the general election is still nine months away.

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Kirk, who has taken some positions over the decade he's been in the House that have dissatisfied party conservatives, moved noticeably to the right during the primary.

For the Democrats, it was less about ideology and more about who could win in November. Leading members of the party, including Sen. Dick Durbin, rallied behind Giannoulias early in the process, even when Burris was still a potential candidate, possibly because of his ability to self-finance his race. But ethics quickly became a sticking point for Giannoulias, as questions were raised about the stability of his family's bank, Broadway Bank, and its ties to convicted influence peddler Tony Reszko. Had the primary date been later in the month, some feel Hoffman could have overtaken him.

Meanwhile, it's too-close-to-call in both the Democratic and Republican primaries for governor.

On the Democratic side, Gov. Pat Quinn — who became governor following the impeachment, conviction and removal from office of Rod Blagojevich — clings to a 4,000-vote lead (50.3-49.7) over three-term state Comptroller Dan Hynes. The race, which was bitter and personal from the start, got progressively worse as the campaign went on. (See my Monday post on the race here.)

It's even closer with the Republicans. Kirk Dillard has a 600-vote lead over fellow state Sen. Bill Brady, with former state GOP chair Andy McKenna close behind in third, ex-state Attorney General Jim Ryan in fourth, and three others trailing.

In the 10th Congressional District seat that Kirk is vacating, it's neck and neck in the Democratic contest between Dan Seals, who twice lost to Kirk, and state Rep. Julie Hamos. The Republican nomination went to businessman Bob Dold.

And in the GOP primary in the 14th District, represented by Democrat Bill Foster since the spring of 2008, when former House Speaker Dennis Hastert resigned, the winner was state Sen. Randy Hultgren. He defeated Hastert's son, attorney Ethan Hastert, and will face Foster in November.