Republican businessman Bruce Rauner has narrowly defeated incumbent Governor Pat Quinn for the Illinois governorship in what has become the most expensive gubernatorial race in the state’s history.
Rauner has dumped nearly $30 million of his own money into his campaign. According to recent polls he was neck and neck with the unpopular incumbent, whose repeated tax hikes failed to improve the state’s floundering economy. The morning of the election, Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight gave Quinn a 64% chance of winning.
The race was neck and neck all night, with the two trading leads by thousands and even hundreds of votes every few minutes.
As a Chicago Tribune op-ed put it, “a decisive number of voters are ready for a change at the top in Springfield, even if they’re not at all sure what that change would entail.”
Quinn served as lieutenant governor under the infamous Rod Blagojevich, who was impeached in 2009 and later sentenced to 14 years in prison for 17 corruption charges. Quinn narrowly defeated his Republican opponent Bill Brady in 2010, squeaking out a victory with some 30,000 votes.
In a race between a tax lawyer who served under one of the most corrupt governors in history and a Republican millionaire who advised Rahm Emmanuel for years, Illinoisans voted largely along demographic lines, with Quinn relying heavily on President Obama to draw out African-American support in the deep-blue state. He also campaigned on raising the minimum wage, and highlighted Rauner’s onetime support for lowering it, a stance he has since rejected. (RELATED: Illinois Governor Vetoes Concealed Carry Bill)
Tired of the corruption that had tainted Illinois politics for years, Rauner’s position as a political outsider worked in his favor. A native Illinoisan with degrees from Dartmouth and Harvard Business School, Rauner focused on job creation and school choice during the campaign, additionally vowing to pursue an eight-year term limit for Illinois governors. (RELATED: Illinois Union Attempts To Split Republican Vote)
Michelle Obama, who grew up in Chicago during the Mayor Daley years, came out and campaigned for Quinn just days before the election, who said that his leadership made Illinois a leader in job creation in the region. President Obama campaigned for him, unsuccessfully, earlier in October. (RELATED: Illinois Now Has The Nation’s Second Highest Property Taxes)
Both campaigns caught attention for their election night bars — Quinn’s was free, while Rauner charged $10 for mixed drinks and glasses of wine.
$10 for mixed drinks at #Rauner‘s party. I heard Quinn has an open bar. Womp womp. #ilgov @redlineproject pic.twitter.com/0aLAQvFYy7
— Emily Brosious (@EmilyBrosious) November 5, 2014
As the Chicago Tribune, which endorsed Rauner, put it on election night: “The campaign was mostly bereft of details about how either candidate would lead the state going forward, with the focus instead on vilification.”