SPRINGFIELD — If election results hold, Gov. Pat Quinn was elected to a full-term as governor by managing to win a majority of voters in only three of Illinois' 102 counties.
That's a sharp contrast to the 2006 mid-term election when winning Democrat incumbent Gov. Rod Blagojevich earned majorities in more than 30 counties.
Blagojevich earned 1,736,731 votes in 2006 and, as of Friday, Quinn had 1,721,812 votes with absentee votes still being counted and the tally yet to be finalized. But Quinn faced much stiffer competition from his direct rival, state Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, and a political environment more supportive of Republicans.
Brady, who conceded the race to Quinn on Friday, had 1,702,399 votes and counting. Blagojevich's GOP rival, Judy Baar Topinka, gained only 1,369,315 votes in 2006. Topinka returned to statewide politics Tuesday by being elected comptroller.
Quinn won handily in Cook County, where he resides, with almost 65 percent of the vote against rival Brady and several other candidates. He also had narrow majorities in St. Clair County in the Metro-East area near St. Louis and Alexander County in the southwestern tip of the state.
Blagojevich also won Cook County — as well as nearby Will and Lake counties, Winnebago and Boone Counties in northern Illinois, several counties in the Quad-Cities area and many in southwestern Illinois.
In 2006, Blagojevich easily carried Rock Island County by more than 9,000 votes over Topinka. But on Tuesday, Brady beat Quinn by more than 2,000 votes, an 11,000-vote swing that surprised State Rep. Pat Verschoore, D-Milan.
Verschoore, who also won re-election Tuesday, attributes Brady's win to local Republicans being more organized than in 2006.
"Usually it's a 2-to-1 ratio of Democrats (to) Republicans (voting), and we didn't have that this year," he said. "Of course, the Republicans got their people out, they got the vote out, and we didn't get our people out."
Southern Illinois University political science Professor Charles Leonard said he, too, was surprised that Brady managed to win in Jackson County, home of Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. Quinn's handpicked running mate, Sheila Simon, is a law professor at SIU, and voters there have helped elect Democratic state lawmakers in recent years.
"But downstate, Illinois is a lot more conservative than Chicago and the Cook County suburbs. So I'm surprised at the mostly unbroken sea of red, but not particularly surprised that Brady won downstate," he said.
At last count, Brady carried Jackson County by 23 votes out of more than 15,500 votes cast. Brady conceded in his hometown of Bloomington on Friday afternoon.
Illinois GOP Chairman Pat Brady, no relation to the party's gubernatorial candidate, acknowledged the headway Bill Brady made in the election.
"Bill managed to turn virtually all of Illinois red, gaining broad support across the entire state," Pat Brady said in a statement.