Illinois 2018 General Election Review

By Stephen S. Morrill, Principal of Morrill & Fiedler LLC (M&F)

The 2018 Illinois General Election was held earlier this month on Tuesday, November 6.  The anticipated “blue wave,” while not as impactful as originally predicted (at least in the U.S. Senate), still had a significant effect in Chicago, Cook County, and the surrounding Chicagoland suburban areas.  Voter turnout in Chicago and Cook County exceeded 55% of registered voters, and exit polls showed voters between the ages of 18-25 were the largest group of voters in Chicago and its surrounding suburbs – a first for a historically low-turnout population.  As in the 2018 primary election, DuPage County (and many other collar counties), saw a substantial increase in Democratic voter turnout.  This led to many Illinois GOP incumbents losing their re-election battles, while allowing the Democrats to sweep all statewide constitutional offices and increase their majorities in the Illinois House and Senate.

BOMA/Chicago members undoubtedly paid close attention to the 2018 state election, as legislative and regulatory activity profoundly impacts the commercial office industry.  With a host of tax- and energy-related proposals looming, this election produced the General Assembly that will confront a host of issues that may impact how commercial real estate is assessed for property tax purposes, how commercial office buildings shall be required to meet the life safety needs of tenants and the public, and how licensed commercial real estate professionals are best regulated.  With all that in mind, we review for the BOMA/Chicago community the results of the Illinois 2018 general election.

Race for Governor

In one of the most expensive gubernatorial races in U.S. history, Democratic candidate J.B. Pritzker defeated first-term Governor Bruce Rauner 54%-39% to become the next Governor of Illinois.  In the following days, the Governor-elect has named a strongly bipartisan transition team including State Representative and Democratic Party of Illinois Executive Director Christian Mitchell, AFL-CIO President Mike Carrigan, former Republican Governor Jim Edgar, and former Minority Leader Senator Christine Radogno.  Pritzker will be sworn in as the 43rd Governor of Illinois on January 14 of next year.  New leadership in all (or virtually all) executive branch agencies is expected to be appointed in the months to come.

Candidate Sam McCann, a former state Senator running as a member of the new Conservative Party very narrowly failed to reach 5% of the vote, a threshold which would have guaranteed Conservative Party candidates a spot on the ballot in future elections.  Kash Jackson, a Libertarian, received 2.4% of the vote.

Other Statewide Offices

The Attorney General race, widely reported in the weeks leading up to the election to be the closest of all statewide races, saw Senator Kwame Raoul defeat Republican candidate Erika Harold 54%-43%.

Secretary of State Jesse White (D-Chicago) handily won his sixth term as Illinois Secretary of State with 64% of the vote.

Incumbent Comptroller Susana Mendoza received almost 60% of the vote over Republican challenger and former state Representative Darlene Senger.  Shortly after the election, Mendoza announced a highly-anticipated Chicago mayoral candidacy, adding her name to the now 16-candidate race.  Should she fail to be elected as Mayor of Chicago, she will retain her position as State Comptroller; should she win that race, her replacement as Comptroller will be appointed by the Governor.  City of Chicago elections will be held this coming February.

Michael Frerichs was elected to his second term as state Treasurer with 57% of the vote over Republican candidate Jim Dodge (39%) and Libertarian candidate Mike Leheney (3.4%).

Overview of Contests for State Legislature

While the majority of legislative contests have been made official, there remain a few races that have not been called and election officials will continue to process ballots (absentee, vote-by-mail, and provisional).  Regardless of yet-to-be-called races, the Democrats managed to increase their majorities in both the Senate and the House.  When the new General Assembly, Governor, and state constitutional officers are sworn in in early January, Democrats will have control of all three branches of Illinois government.  Governor-elect J.B. Pritzker and the Democratic Party of Illinois are credited for the high Democratic turnout seen in this election by placing strong focus on a vote-by-mail initiative, early voting messaging, and a “Get Out The Vote” campaign on election day.

The Illinois Senate Democrats, who previously held 37 seats to Republicans’ 22, increased their supermajority to 39 seats after flipping two Senate districts and defeating Republican incumbents Sen. Tom Rooney and Sen. Chris Nybo.  A third race, yet to be called, could see Republican Sen. Michael Connelly unseated by his Democratic opponent, further increasing the Senate Democrats’ veto-proof majority.  On Thursday, November 15, Sen. Nybo submitted his letter of resignation, effective immediately, indicating he will not return for the second week of veto session (November 27-29) or “lame duck” session in early January.

The House Democrats, who saw their supermajority slip away in the 2018 election, has regained a net of six seats (picking up seven seats while losing one).  This grows their caucus from 67 seats to 73, once again claiming a supermajority over House Republicans.  Republican members Peter Breen, Sheri Jesiel, Jerry Long, David Olsen, and Christine Winger were unseated by their Democratic challengers, while Democratic member Natalie Phelps-Finnie, appointed to replace Rep. Brandon Phelps upon his retirement, was defeated by Republican Patrick Windhorst.  Rep. Christian Mitchell (D-Chicago) will serve the remainder of his current legislative term before taking over as Deputy Governor in the Pritzker administration in January.

Two House races remain undecided. The race between recently-appointed Republican Rep. Helene Miller Walsh and her Democratic challenger Mary Edly-Allen, has grown increasingly tight.  As vote-by-mail and absentee voter ballots continue to be tallied, Rep. Miller-Walsh, who led on election night, has a deficit of just three votes as of this writing.   Incumbent Republican Rep. Tom Morrison, up for his 5th term in the House, has yet to claim victory over Democratic candidate Maggie Trevor.  Rep. Morrison leads his opponent by just 72 votes.

As both chambers enter the 101st General Assembly with Democratic majorities, it is expected that the same legislative leaders will be re-elected to lead their respective caucuses: House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs), and Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady (R-Bloomington).

As earlier reported, the 2018 election cycle in Illinois saw a record number of state legislators who either resigned, lost a primary election, or announced retirement or candidacy for a different elected office.  This caused a significant increase in the number of competitive legislative races, and will usher in a General Assembly with almost a quarter of members arriving as freshmen legislators.

Because the policy decisions made in Springfield greatly impact the commercial office industry, BOMA/Chicago members have an ongoing interest in Illinois election outcomes.  Hopefully this discussion has provided insight into the 2018 Illinois election outcomes and future political landscape.

> Stay tuned for a forthcoming blog from Steve Morrill focused on what to expect in the Illinois General Assembly in the weeks and months ahead.

M&F has represented BOMA/Chicago before Illinois state government for many years and of counsel at Barnes & Thornburg LLP.  Also contributing to this article are Curt Fiedler, Gary Hannig, Chuck Hartke and Hannah Smith, Morrill’s colleagues at M&F.  

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About BOMA/Chicago

The voice of Chicago's office building industry since 1902.
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