Election Blog: Democrats prevail in Illinois, nationally facing a tight loss in the House

Governor J.B. Pritzker sailed to a second term, easily defeating downstate Republican Darren Bailey. Across the nation, the projected red wave was more of a ripple. Republicans are expected to win the House but the Democrats will keep control of the Senate. 

In Illinois, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth, the Democratic incumbent, cruised to a second term, defeating Republican attorney Kathy Salvi. The Senate, where Democrats held a single-vote edge going into the midterm, remained too close to call as the race in Georgia headed to a December runoff election. The House, also too close to call, is projected to flip in favor of Republicans. 

The Republican strength arrived in typical midterm election fashion, but did not amount to the red wave that some pollsters had predicted. The president’s party has lost an average of 26 House seats during midterm elections since 1946, though this year’s loss was significantly smaller. Republicans needed a net gain of only five seats to wrest control from Democrats.

Pritzker Stays Illinois Governor 

The scene at J.B. Pritzker’s victory party minutes prior to the celebration. (Jacob Costello)

Despite low voter turnout in Chicago, Pritzker easily secured his second term as the Associated Press declared him the winner minutes after polls closed in Illinois. 

At the Pritzker headquarters in Chicago, cheers rang through the ballroom when AP called the race, and the celebratory tone continued all night.

Chicago mayoral candidate Kam Buckner was pleased with Pritzker’s victory.

“We’re in a tough spot. Most days, we’re in a tough spot, but it was doing the right thing and we’re leading, and we’re gonna continue to lead,” he said.

The crowd of Pritzker supporters welcomed the second term governor to the stage with thunderous applause and he proceeded to give his victory speech. 

“Most importantly, to the people of Illinois, thank you for placing your trust in me to carry our mission forward for four more years. I won’t let you down,” said Pritzker as a ballroom full of his supporters chanted “J.B!” and waved campaign signs. 

Pritzker’s speech ended in a huge celebration. Glitter and confetti rained from the ceiling as people danced and drank, enjoying the win with like minded individuals. 

As celebrations and speeches erupted at Pritzker’s headquarters, Bailey’s party sat downstate in Springfield holding onto hope. 

Even after the AP called the race for Pritzker, Bailey’s election night party started with a prayer. Pastor Dallas Bear led the prayer saying, “We pray tonight for the true vote to come out.”

Pastor Dallas Bear leads a prayer at Darren Bailey’s headquarters after the Associated Press calls J.B. Pritzker’s victory. (Richie Requena)

Some Bailey supporters were not ready to concede. Campaign volunteer Donna Stine, 75, of Altamont said she didn’t believe all the votes had been counted yet, and much less in Southern Illinois. “It amazes me how you can call it won for Pritzker when they don’t even have a complete count. That’s kind of baffling,” she said. 

In his concession speech several hours after the AP called the governor’s race, the state senator from Xenia, Illinois said he will continue to protect freedoms, bring jobs to the state and safety to the streets. 

“Republicans need to be the loyal opposition in spring. Loyal to our state, loyal to our country and loyal to our country,” said Bailey. “But in opposition to the radical policies of the Democrats.”

Pritzker’s victory comes after he outspent Bailey, including more than $100 million of his own fortune. Pritzker’s promises to protect abortion and LGBTQ+ rights highlighted a key difference with Bailey, a long-time opponent of abortion who said he did not believe in exceptions even in cases of rape or incest.  

Bailey focused his fire on Pritzker’s support of the SAFE-T Act Bill, which will eliminate cash bail for non-violent crimes when it becomes law in January 2023.

Bailey’s belittlement of Chicago, calling it a “dysfunctional hellhole,” drew intense criticism during the campaign. 

In Illinois, Republicans typically need strong showings  in the Chicago suburbs to win statewide elections. But Pritzker defeated Bailey in Chicago, its suburbs and Springfield to cruise to a second victory.

By Jacob Costello, Megan Szabelski, Richie Requena

Republicans appear headed for a narrow majority in the U.S. House as exit polls show many voters angry over the economy.  

Inflation has been a key issue for voters. Exit polls conducted by Edison Research for television networks indicated high prices were the biggest concern for more than a third of voters in Tuesday’s election. The majority of those most concerned about inflation voted for Republicans, according to exit poll results reported by CNN.

Republicans held 212 seats in the House of Representatives and needed a net gain of six seats to gain control of the House. The Democrats held 220 seats and there are 435 seats at stake overall. 

In Ohio, Republicans held on to the governorship and open Senate seat, but Democrat Greg Landsman upset longtime Republican incumbent Steve Chabot in a House district that Trump won in 2020.  In New York, Republicans turned the tables when Mike Lawler beat Sean Patrick Maloney in a close race. 

In Florida, Republicans cemented their hold on the state’s politics, reelecting governor Ron DeSantis by a wide margin and sending 20 representatives to Congress, an increase of four seats.

Republicans Anna Paulina and Luna Laurel Lee won open seats in the Tampa Bay area.

In a rare bright spot for Floria Democrats, Maxwell Alejandro Frost, 25, became the first member of Generation Z to take a seat in Congress. Frost focused his campaign on issues appealing to younger voters such as gun violence and abortion rights. 

Currently, Republicans are just one seat away from achieving a majority in the House. Politico reported that Republicans have won 217 out of 218 seats needed to achieve a majority.

By Alexandra Murphy

Democrats retain control of U.S. Senate

The final results for some U.S. Senate races won’t be known for days or weeks, as the Georgia race is headed to a runoff election December 6, but as of 11/12, Arizona and Nevada have been called in favor of Democrat candidates. Incumbent Democrats Mark Kelly of Arizona and Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada have each won their respective races.

Currently, each party has 50 senators–an even split between Democrats and Republicans. Vice President Kamala Harris holds the split vote, giving a razor-thin majority to Democrats. 

In Georgia, incumbent Raphael Warnock holds a slight lead over former football star Herschel Walker but they will face each other again in December because neither candidate achieved 50% of the vote needed to avoid a runoff. 

Georgia Republican voters crossed party lines at the polls, showing a strong support for reelecting governor  Brian Kemp, who won over 53% of the vote, but less enthusiasm for Senate candidate Herschel Walker. 

Walker came under fire during the campaign for allegedly pressuring and paying for two women’s abortions. Walker denied the claims. 

Isabelle Earl 11/9 12:00 PM CST

John Fetterman wins tight senate race in Pennsylvania  

Democrat John Fetterman, Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor, won a key Senate seat by defeating Dr. Mehmet Oz in one of the most competitive Senate races of the election season. Oz conceded early Wednesday morning,  AP reported. 

Fetterman flipped the open Republican seat by about 200,000 votes while recovering from a stroke that hampered his speech. 

Isabelle Earl 11/9 9:00 AM CST 

Former State Supreme Court Chief Justice falls short for North Carolina Senate seat

Democratic candidate Cheri Beasley lost a key Senate seat to Republican congressman Ted Budd. 

Budd, 51, is one of the most conservative members in the House.

Isabelle Earl 11:45 AM CST

Ohio Republican J.D. Vance secures seat in the Senate  

After a highly competitive race, Trump-endorsed Republican J.D. Vance defeated Democratic opponent Tim Ryan. Vance is replacing Sen. Rob Portman, who announced earlier this year he would not be seeking reelection.  

Vance, a venture capitalist and author,  campaigned on ending abortion, protecting Second Amendment rights, and opposing critical race theory. 

Isabelle Earl 11/8 10:25 PM CST

Despite Republican hope, Colorado stays blue

Incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet defeated moderate Republican challenger Joe O’Dea. 

O’Dea had been attacked by former President Donald Trump after saying he would “actively campaign” against Trump if he were to run again in 2024. O’Dea blamed President Biden for high inflation but also supported abortion access. 

In Arizona, another battleground, incumbent Democrat Mark Kelly was leading Trump favorite Blake Masters but election glitches delayed the counting of ballots.

Illinois remains bright blue

Democrats won up and down the ballot in Illinois, giving them control of the state’s highest court, all statewide offices and a super-majority in the state legislature. 

Democrats Hold Majority for Illinois Supreme Court 

The two open seats for the Illinois Supreme Court meant the majority was at stake, but Democrats won both to maintain a four to three advantage. 

In the second district, representing northwest suburban counties, Elizabeth Rochford declared victory over former Republican sheriff and prosecutor Mark Curran.

Another Democrat, Mary O’Brien, defeated Republican Michael Burke to capture the third district Supreme Court seat representing south and southwest suburban areas. 

“Yes” to Amendment One

Illinois voters passed Amendment One in the Illinois Constitution by a slim margin.

Amendment One guarantees the right of workers to organize and to bargain for fair wages, hours, working conditions, economic welfare, and safety at work.  

Alexi Giannoulias Wins Illinois Secretary of State

Democrat Alexi Giannoulias won the highly-anticipated race for Secretary of State, defeating Republican Dan Brady.

The position opened after the popular incumbent, 88-year-old Jesse White, announced his retirement after serving for almost a quarter of a century.

Rauol Re-elected to Attorney General

First-term Democrat Kwame Raoul won a second term over his challenger, Republican Thomas DeVore. 

Raoul focused his campaign on reproductive rights and protecting children from sexual predators.  

Mendoza Wins Second Term for Comptroller

Democrat Susana Mendoza defeated Republican Shannon Teresi to keep her office for another four years. 

Mendoza, the first woman to serve as Chicago City Clerk, campaigned on expanding budget transparency and paying off the state’s debts.  

Victory for Treasurer Michael Frerichs

Democrat Michael Frerichs beat Republican Tom Demmer to win his third term as Illinois Treasurer.

The Unclaimed Property Program is the highlight of his agenda, helping Illinois citizens reclaim their lost funds and property.

Illinois State Senate

Democrats hold the majority in the State Senate holding 40 seats while Republicans hold 18.

Illinois State House

The Illinois “blue wave” held true within the State House.  Democrats hold 73 House Seats while Republicans hold 45.

Voters Face Difficulties at the Polls

Voter Disenfranchisement

Voting in Arizona’s Maricopa County was off to a rocky start as 30% of the county’s polling places reported problems with voting machines. State officials say it could take until Friday to tabulate all the results because of recounting ballots that machines could not read. 

The problems led to unsubstantiated claims of fraud. 

The New York Times  reported that voters in line believe the malfunctioning technology is “absolutely deliberate.” Republican officials assured voters that no fraud is involved, simply technological difficulties. 

Voters in Houston, Texas also faced  voting difficulties as some polling places did not open on time.

In Pennsylvania, polls in Luzerne County were kept open an extra two hours because voting sites ran out of paper ballots. 

Voter Intimidation

Voting in West Bend, Wis. was halted for 30 minutes when a man armed with a knife entered a polling place and demanded that the election workers “stop the vote” before police took him into custody without incident. 

Two poll workers in Johns Creek, Ga. were removed from their posts on Tuesday morning after being linked to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. 

By Violet Smale

Abortion on the ballot

After the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in June, voters in some states had new choices on abortion access. 

Michigan, California and Vermont voted to enshrine abortion access in their state Constitution. In Kentucky, an amendment to the state Constitution that would remove the right to an abortion was rejected by voters. Montana voters rejected a proposal  that would make fetuses legal persons who must receive medical attention if they survive an abortion or are born prematurely. The proposed law included criminal charges for health care providers. 

In August, voters in solid red Kansas rejected a measure to ban abortion in the state.

By Audrey Leib

Marijuana and mushrooms on the ballot 

Following President Biden’s announcement to pardon those convicted of simple possession of marijuana, five states put the use of recreational marijuana on their ballots. Voters approved the measures in Missouri and Maryland but rejected recreational pot in Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota.  In Colorado, one of the first states to embrace recreational marijuana, voters approved the legal sale of some psychedelic mushrooms.  

By Violet Smale

Voter demographics

According to a National Election Pool (NEP) exit poll, voters in the midterm were older in this election cycle, with 38% in the 45-64 age range. Men voted predominately Republican, while women and voters of color tilted Democratic.  Republicans scored gains among white women and Hispanic voters compared to the last midterm in 2018. Education was a stark indicator: A majority of college graduates voted for Democrats while non college graduates favored Republicans. 

Key Issues

According to a NEP poll, 32% of Americans saw inflation as the issue that influenced their vote the most. Trailing behind were abortion, gun policies, crime and immigration.  

NEP’s poll determined that Americans are struggling economically, with 47% saying that their financial situations have worsened over the past two years. Seventy-six percent of Americans say that the condition of the nation’s economy is “not so good or poor,” with inflation causing “moderate hardship” to 59% of Americans. 

NEP polls showed that 70 percent of Americans think that U.S. democracy is being threatened, but nearly half also say that their elections are “being conducted fairly and accurately.” 

By Audrey Leib