Voters in Illinois will head to the polls on Tuesday, marking both the beginning of the country’s primary contests and perhaps the end of the Blagojevich era.
The gubernatorial and senatorial contests mark the first time those seats have been up for election since disgraced Gov. Rod Blagojevich was ousted from the governorship last year for attempting to arrange a quid pro quo scheme involving the vacant Senate seat.
Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn — who as lieutenant governor took over as the state’s chief executive last year when Blagojevich was removed from office last year — is in a bruising primary battle for the governorship, trailing Comptroller Dan Hynes by six percentage points in the latest Rasmussen poll.
The Republican primary for the gubernatorial seat is wide open, according to the Rasmussen poll released Wednesday, with former state Republican Chairman Andy McKenna leading rivals with 20 percent of the vote. Four other Republican candidates are in double digits: former state Attorney General Jim Ryan polled at 16 percent, state Senator Kirk Dillard is at 13 percent and state Senator Bill Brady and activist Adam Andrzejewski both polled at 11 percent.
For the Senate seat, Democratic Sen. Roland Burris — the politician whom Blagojevich ultimately appointed to fill the vacant seat before being removed from office — is not running for re-election. Front-runner Illinois state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias is facing Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman in the Democratic primary on Tuesday.
As for Republicans, Rep. Mark Kirk has greatly out-polled his primary rivals, including candidate Andy Martin, who drew attention during the campaign for running a radio ad suggesting that Kirk is gay, something the congressman denies.
Most other states across the country will hold primaries later this spring or this summer. After next week’s vote in Illinois, the country’s next primary will be held in March, which will include the Republican gubernatorial primary between Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Gov. Rick Perry.