The two crushed Rauner while Attorney General candidate Kwame Raoul was among many Black candidates in Illinois who dominated the midterm elections where Democrats took back the U.S. House of Representatives
By Erick Johnson
In a landslide victory, Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker swept his opponent to become Illinois’ 43rd governor while Illinois Attorney General candidate Kwame Raoul was among a crop of Black candidates to win in a historic evening where Democrats took back control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
It was a historic night in Illinois as Pritzker’s running mate, Juliana Stratton, became the first Black lieutenant governor in the state’s history. Black candidates in state and local races dominated in their campaigns, ensuring the most diverse political leadership that Springfield has ever seen.
Pritzker grabbed 60 percent of the vote, forcing Governor Bruce Rauner to concede just 43 minutes after the polls closed at 7 p.m. Raoul easily defeated Republican challenger Erika Harold by winning 60 percent of the vote. Secretary of State Jesse White was elected to a fifth term by grabbing 60 percent of the vote. Susana Mendoza was re-elected as Illinois comptroller.
In a big victory, Lauren Underwood, a Black nurse who worked in President Barack Obama’s administration, defeated Republican incumbent Randy Hultgren for State Representative for Illinois 14th Congressional District. She joins Bobby L. Rush (1st District), Robin Kelly (2nd District) and Danny K. Davis (7th District), who were all reelected Tuesday night.
Underwood’s victory was among many nationwide where Democrats took seats back from Republicans. In all, But Democrats took back control of the U.S. House, gaining 27 seats and returning Nancy Pelosi to the role as House Majority Leader.
On the national level, three Black candidates who were close to making history lost gubernatorial races in Florida, Georgia and Maryland. But Democrats took back control of the U.S. House, gaining 27 seats and returning Nancy Pelosi to the role as House Majority Leader.
The heavily partisan general election brought out Blacks, Hispanics and other ethnic groups who turned out in droves in Chicago and around the country after high-profile, get-out-the-vote campaigns by former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden.
Their efforts reap big returns as voter turnout was high amid long lines at precincts in Chicago, Cook County and across the nation, ending years of declining numbers at the polls during mid-term elections.
At a victory party Tuesday night at the Marriott Marquis near McCormick Place, Pritzker thanked voters and promised to restore faith in Illinois government.
“Are you ready for the fight?” he asked. “The fight for healthcare for everyone! For well-paid teachers and a quality education for our kids! For equal pay for equal work! The fight for a criminal justice system that is truly just! For environmental policies that are based on science! For a responsible state budget! For gun safety laws that protect our families! For jobs, for a living wage, for strong labor unions! For a state that welcomes immigrants! And for the truth!”
For Stratton, the victory was a boost to her short political career that she began as a rookie, when she ousted veteran State Rep. Ken Dunkin in the 2016 Democratic Primary. Her husband and three daughters stood on stage as Stratton gave her victory speech.
“My heart is with the grieving mothers who lost their children in neighborhoods beset by unacceptable levels of violence. My heart is with the women who have been dismissed and disbelieved when it comes to the harassment to which they have been subjected and who have made it clear that our voices will be heard that we don’t need me to legislate our bodies.”
Pritzker and Stratton ousted a governor who rocked the state’s capitol in the last four years with his conservative policies and abrasive leadership style that caused a two-year budget crisis that crippled struggling universities and health clinics throughout Chicago’s Black community.
Before the polls closed, Pritzker and Stratton made 15 stops across Chicago to boost voter turnout. One of those stops included the Red Line station where the two greeted commuters along with Representative Sonya Harper, Alderman Roderick Sawyer (6th) and 20th Ward Democratic Committeeman Kevin Bailey.
Polls showed that the race between Raoul and Harold was close. A poll by Victory Research— one day before Election Day—showed Democrat Raoul leading his opponent by less than five percentage points (44.6 percent to 40.0 percent). The close race led Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan to pump $1 million into Raoul’s campaign in the final days of the race.
But as election night wound down, Raoul’s lead grew bigger and bigger, surprising political analysts. When the smoke cleared, Raoul posted a big victory, adding to a night of domination for Illinois Democrats.
Raoul will take office Jan. 14 and will replace incumbent Lisa Madigan, d who attended Raoul’s victory celebration at the Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park Hotel downtown.
As election night wound down, Raoul’s lead grew bigger and bigger, surprising political analysts. When the smoke cleared, Raoul posted a big victory, adding to a night of domination for Illinois Democrats.
In Chicago, voters pushed to get to the polls amid strong winds and chilly temperatures that dipped into the 40s throughout the afternoon.
Voter turnout was steady when a Crusader reporter visited the Judge Slater Senior Apartments in Bronzeville. One election judge said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle visited the precinct earlier. Preckwinkle, who was automatically elected to a third term, is campaigning to replace Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in next year’s mayoral elections.
One voter, Janice Nelson, said she is concerned about the future of the Medicare program.
“We need to keep this for seniors,” she said. “We deserve to have that. I’m sick of Trump. He has no right to be anyone’s president.”
In the racially-charged race for Florida governor, Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum came up short in a close defeat to Republican Ron DeSantis. Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams—vying to become the first Black male or female governor of Georgia—also forced a run-off in losing to Republican challenger Brian Kemp in a contentious race that included allegations of Black voter suppression by Kemp who served as Georgia’s Secretary of State in charge of voter registration. In Maryland, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous lost to Republican challenger Larry Hogan who won easily, taking 52 percent of the vote.