Originally Posted Online: Nov. 06, 2012, 8:49 am
Last Updated: Nov. 06, 2012, 9:13 am

Illinois GOP faces long odds to take Legislature

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Illinois Republicans faced an uphill battle Tuesday to try to wrestle control of the General Assembly away from the Democrats.

The GOP needed six seats in both the House and Senate to form majorities for the first time in either house since 2002.

Republicans hoped to resonate with their message that Democrats are to blame for multibillion-dollar budget and public pension deficits and unemployment near 9 percent.

But they were up against a ticket led by had to run against President Barack Obama, who is less popular than when he won in 2008 but still was expected to do well in his home state.

More importantly, the GOP faced legislative districts drawn by majority Democrats to largely favor Democratic candidates. The map was recrafted because of population shifts revealed by the 2010 Census. But even with all 177 seats in the General Assembly up for a vote, nearly half were uncontested and dozens of Democrats were assured victory.

The ballot featured some oddities. Former state Rep. Derrick Smith, D-Chicago, was ejected from the House in August because of a federal bribery charge. He pleaded not guilty and has remained in the race while Democrats put forward a challenger in 10th District Unity candidate Lance Tyson, who's worked for former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and former Cook County Board President Todd Stroger.

In the McHenry County area, Republican David McSweeney of Barrington Hills was trying to keep the former seat of the late Rep. Mark Beaubien. He had an unlikely opponent in Beaubien's widow, Dee Beaubien of Barrington Hills, who was running as an independent. She received tens of thousands of dollars in campaign money from committees controlled by Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Bill Albracht of Moline was one of several Republicans trying to unseat entrenched Democratic incumbents. The former Secret Service agent, squared off against Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline. Jacobs said he had 'delivered' for his district in the form of projects paid by tax dollars he brought back home.

Mindful of Illinois' Democratic leanings, many Republicans played up their independence and willingness to work with members of opposition parties. Decatur Mayor Mike McElroy, a Republican Senate candidate, did that while also criticizing his opponent, Democrat Andy Manar of Bunker Hill, for being an insider even though he's not an incumbent.

Manar was a Senate Democratic staffer for years and resigned as Senate President John Cullerton's chief of staff to seek the Senate seat just south of Springfield.