Illinois Public Media News
On March 20, 2012, Illinois Public Media aired live coverage of the 2012 primary election hosted by News and Public Affairs Director, Craig Cohen.
The three-hour broadcast included the latest results and analysis in the GOP Presidential primary, the Democratic and Republican 13th Congressional district primaries, plus races for state legislative seats, the Champaign County Board, Auditor, and Circuit Clerk, and municipal electric aggregation referenda in Champaign-Urbana.
Throughout the evening, Craig was joined by Robert Rich (Director, Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois, Kent Redfield (Political Science Professor, University of Illinois at Springfield), and John Jackson (Visiting Professor, Paul Simon Policy Institute at the Southern Illinois University in Carbondale).
The Election Night special was produced by Sean Powers, with assistance from Kimberlie Kranich, Celeste Quinn, Jeff Bossert, Pam Dempsey, Jill Disis, Azra Halilović, Mary Barrineau, Jack Brighton, Carina Lee, and Dan Davis. There was additional reporting from Illinois Public Radio's Willis Kern, Charlie Schlenker and Brian Mackey. The technical director was Jason Croft.
HOUR 1 +NPR News in Washington, DC +Panel discussion on the various races, campaign contributions, and the redistricting of legislative and congressional district maps +Interview with Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten at the Brookens Administrative Center about voter turnout +Update from Illinois Public Radio in Springfield +Panel discussion about the Presidential candidates
HOUR 2 +NPR News in Washington, DC +Conversation with Tom Kacich, editorial page editor of the Champaign/Urbana News-Gazette. Kacich talked about races for circuit clerk, auditor, and county board in Champaign County +Illinois Public Media's Jeff Bossert reports on the municipal electric aggregation referenda +Update from Illinois Public Radio in Springfield +Panel discussion about the 13th Congressional race, including reports from Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers and Illinois Public Radio's Willis Kern
HOUR 3 +NPR News in Washington, DC +Panel discussion about races during the night +Update from Illinois Public Radio in Springfield +Illinois Public Media's Jeff Bossert reports from the Brookens Administrative Center about results from the county races +Illinois Public Radio's Brian Mackey reports from Springfield about how Congressional races across the state are shaping out +Illinois Public Radio's Charlie Schlenker reports from the Double Tree Hotel in Bloomington on the 53rd Senate race between Sen. Shane Cultra (R-Onarga) and State Rep. Jason Barickman (R-Champaign)
The lineup for Roger Ebert's Film Festival will include one of Tom Hanks' earliest movies and a classic from Orson Welles.
This year's Ebertfest in Champaign will be April 25 to 29. Ebert announced the lineup on his blog late Tuesday (http://bit.ly/GBleGT ).
The festival will screen Hanks' "Joe Versus the Volcano'' on April 25. Welles' "Citizen Kane'' will be featured on April 29.
Actor and comedian Patton Oswalt will appear at this year's festival. Oswalt will host a screening of `"Kind Hearts and Coronets'' on April 24. A film he starred in, "Big Fan,'' will be shown on April 26.
Tickets for Ebert's annual festival go on sale April 2 at the Virginia Theater in Champaign. Most festival passes are already sold.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn says the Federal Emergency Management Agency has denied the state's appeal for assistance after a deadly tornado and severe storms.
Quinn said in a Wednesday news release that he is disappointed with the decision and doesn't believe "it reflects the reality and devastation on the ground.''
Hundreds of homes in five southern Illinois counties were damaged or destroyed by the Feb. 29 storms that killed seven people in Harrisburg, a town of 9,000 in Saline County.
But FEMA concluded homeowners' insurance, local charities and state funds could cover those costs. Quinn appealed to the Department of Homeland Security days after FEMA turned down the aid request. FEMA later gave the state more time to make a better case for the taxpayer assistance.
Champaign County Coroner Duane Nortrup said a body discovered Sunday behind a house on Hedge Road is that of Renard Jackson.
The 49-year old Champaign man was reported missing from that same neighborhood in November. Champaign Police confirmed the fingerprints from an autopsy were a positive match for Jackson. His body was discovered found under a pile of debris, which was hidden from plain view.
"The Champaign Police Department extends our deepest sympathies and condolences to Renard Jackson's family," Champaign Police Chief Anthony Cobb said. "We would also like to thank the community members, business owners and media outlets who heeded the call to assist the department with this search. My heart goes out to everyone who knew Renard, for it was evident that he belonged to a strong and tightly-knit community that cared for him."
The Champaign Police Department is treating this case as an active homicide investigation.
Northrup said preliminary autopsy results are pending at this time due to the suspicious circumstances of Jackson's death. An investigation by Champaign Police and the Coroner's Office is ongoing.
Shaka Smart says he will stay at Virginia Commonwealth.
Illinois had offered its coaching job to Smart, according to multiple reports.
In a statement released by VCU on Wednesday, the 34-year-old Smart said: "I'm looking forward to building on the successes of our program and university.''
Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas declined comment through a spokesman.
Thomas fired Bruce Weber on March 9 after a 17-15 season that ended with a 2-14 slump. Weber's teams missed three of the last five NCAA tournaments and this year didn't make the postseason at all.
Smart's Rams were the darlings of last year's tournament, going from the First Four to the Final Four after barely making it in as a No. 11 seed. They lost to Indiana in this season's third round Saturday.
Democrat David Gill declared victory Wednesday in his bid to mount a fourth challenge to Congressman Tim Johnson. But Matt Goetten says he wants to wait until all the ballots are counted.
Gill announced early Wednesday morning that unofficial numbers in the 13th Congressional District Democratic primary show him with 15,507 to Goetten's 15,364 --- a 143 vote margin.
Gill says his narrow victory comes even though Goetten spent more money on campaign media buys than he did.
"This was definitely a victory for a citizen-power campaign over the Wall Street money and the Washington DC power brokers," Gill said .
Gill had previously criticized Goetten for not pledging to refuse any future superPAC contributions. Goetten had also received an endorsement from Illinois U-S Senator Dick Durbin.
Gill's declaration of victory does not rest on official numbers, however. And Gill says the votes may be subject to a recount.
Meanwhile, Goetten's campaign manager says they'll wait until provisional and overseas ballots are counted, to see if Gill's slim majority will stand.
In a statement released Wednesday morning, Goetten said, "Washington might tell us that our voices don't matter, but this campaign is about fixing Congress, and that's why every vote must be counted".
Final results in the 13th District race were delayed by problems in Macoupin County. Once those votes came in early Wednesday morning, they added more 2144 votes for Goetten versus 1262 for Gill. But Goetten's larger count was not enough to complete erase Gill's narrow lead in the other counties.
Meanwhile, Congressman Tim Johnson of Urbana won the Republican nomination in the 13th District.
Final, unofficial results show Johnson the winner with 69% of the votes, while Frank Metzger polled 18 percent, and Michael Firsching was third with 13 percent.
Johnson says he wants to continue to focus on constituent service, jobs, and the economy.
"I've been doing the same thing, sending the same message for a number of years," Johnson said. "Obviously, they've had a favorable reception or I wouldn't have been nominated or elected for 44 years.
Republican legislative primaries in east-central Illinois yielded victories for Chapin Rose and Jason Barickman in the Illinois Senate, and Adam Brown in the Illinois House.
In all three races, there were no candidates on the Democratic side, although the party could place candidates on the ballot for the November election.
Rose, a five-term House member, won a decisive victory in the GOP Republican primary for the 51st senate district against opponent Tom Pliura.
Rose got about 70% of the vote after all precincts reported numbers. More than 7,500 votes were cast. He ran on a campaign that was paid special attention to the state's budget.
"I think they responded to my message," says Rose about voters in the district. "I said, 'Look, I've got a plan to cut $4.8 billion, to get rid of the deficit, to pay down the bills and to get us back to a surplus position for the state of Illinois."
Rose touted his ability to work "across the aisle" in the house, and said he'd do the same in the senate.
"We get a lot of things done for our area," Rose says. "We're going to be in the minority again obviously in the senate, so I won't change how I do anything."
Rose comes off a very aggressive election cycle. Pliura, a doctor and lawyer, pulled no punches when he released campaign ads claiming Rose refused to debate him. By the time election day came, the two had squared off in two separate debates, one in Danville and one in Bloomington.
"Mr. Pliura called me tonight," Rose says. "He was very gracious; very gentlemanly. I complemented his supporters on a well-run campaign."
The new general assembly session is still an election away. Until then, Rose is still representing the 110th Illinois House District. The House is in session Wednesday.
Meanwhile, State Representative Adam Brown is closer to reaching his second term.
The Republican beat his primary opponent, Robert Roman, with almost five times as many votes, in the 102nd Illinois House District GOP Primary. About 4,000 votes were cast total. And while Brown has secured the Republican nomination, there is no Democrat running against him in the general election, though someone could challenge him.
"I want to build a downstate coalition that stands up for our gun rights, stands up for our family values and stands up for a balanced budget that's going to be sustainable over the next many years," Brown says.
The win will require Brown to move from the old 101st House District to the newly drawn 102nd district, which includes all of Shelby County, the southern half of Champaign County and also hits the Indiana border. The new 102nd covers much of the territory in the old 101st, but not Brown's current home address. Brown says he felt confident his farming background would help him carry the election.
"My district, it is very agricultural," he adds.
At 26, Brown is already one of the youngest members in the Illinois General Assembly. And, there's a lot he wants to get accomplished.
"I want to build a group that holds the same conservative values as I do," Brown says. "I want to get folks elected to office locally, at the statewide level and nationally that are going to stress fiscal restraints."
Brown hopes to bring back some of the items of legislation from his current term. One bill he co-sponsored suggests that Cook County should become its own state.
"You know, you take a look at the problems here in Illinois," he says. "Chicago policies of grabbing our guns downstate, I believe, need to be pushed back against. Take a look at our state: Downstate values are not being properly represented in the legislature."
One issue Brown differed on with his opponent was on gambling expansion in the state. While Brown says the state has pegged gambling as a funding source for rural needs, he just doesn't "trust the state of Illinois to put that money toward agricultural purposes."
But perhaps there's no issue bigger for Brown than the state's budget.
"Specifically I would like to repeal the tax hike. Twelve hours before I was sworn into office, my predecessor voted for the largest tax hike in Illinois history," Brown says.
Jason Barickman's victory in the 53rd Senate District GOP primary comes at the expense of incumbent Senator Shane Cultra.
Barickman won with 62% of the vote, to Cultra's 38%.
Barickman was appointed to Cultra's old seat in the 105th House District, when Cultra was appointed to the Senate in 2010, to fill the seat left vacant by State Treasurer Dan Rutherford.
Barickman says he thinks he can bring a new perspective to the Senate.
"I think there's a lot of frustration in our state about the direction of our government", Barickman said Tuesday night, "and I hope that people see me as someone who can provide some new leadership, new energy, new ideas to a government that really cries out for new leadership.
Barickman says he supports lower tax rates, "meaningful" worker's compensation reform and an overhaul of state regulations on business.
Like Adam Brown, Barickman will have to move into his new district, if he's elected in November.
A Chicago Democrat has won his party's nomination for the Illinois House despite his arrest on a federal bribery charge.
Rep. Derrick Smith was appointed to his seat last spring after his predecessor moved up to the Senate.
Federal prosecutors allege Smith accepted a $7,000 bribe ten days ago in exchange for what he thought was his endorsement of a state grant for a daycare operation. Authorities claim it was part of an undercover sting.
Smith won 77 percent of the vote over Tom Swiss. Swiss is a former Republican activist who says he has independent views.
Smith received more than $60,000 for his campaign from Illinois Democratic Party Chairman Michael Madigan.
Front-runner Mitt Romney won the Illinois primary with ease Tuesday night, defeating Rick Santorum in yet another industrial state showdown and padding his already-formidable delegate lead in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.
Romney triumphed after benefitting from a crushing advantage in the television advertising wars, and as his chief rival struggled to overcome self-imposed political wounds in the marathon race to pick an opponent to Democratic President Barack Obama.
Returns from 29 percent of the state's precincts showed Romney gaining 55 percent of the vote compared to 28 percent for Santorum, 9 percent for Ron Paul and 7 percent for Newt Gingrich.
Preliminary exit poll results showed Romney preferred by primary goers who said the economy was the top issue in the campaign, and overwhelmingly favored by those who said an ability to defeat Obama was the quality they most wanted in a nominee.
The primary capped a week in which the two campaigns seemed to be moving in opposition directions - Romney increasingly focused on the general election battle against Obama while Santorum struggled to escape self-created controversies.
Most recently, he backpedaled after saying on Monday that the economy wasn't the main issue of the campaign. "Occasionally you say some things where you wish you had a do-over," he said later.
Over the weekend, he was humbled in the Puerto Rico primary after saying that to qualify for statehood the island commonwealth should adopt English as an official language.
While pre-primary polls taken several days ago in Illinois suggested a close race, Romney and Restore Our future, a super Pac that backs him, unleashed a barrage of campaign ads to erode Santorum's standing. One ad accused the former Pennsylvania senator of changing his principles while serving in Congress, while two others criticized him for voting to raise the debt limit, raise his own pay as a lawmaker and side with former Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to support legislation allowing felons the right to vote.
In all, Romney and Restore Our Future outspent Santorum and a super PAC that backs him by $3.5 million to $500,000, an advantage of 7-1.
Neither Newt Gingrich nor Ron Paul campaigned extensively in Illinois.
Romney and Santorum did, though, and not always in respectful tones.
"Senator Santorum has the same economic lightweight background the president has," Romney said at one point. "We're not going to replace an economic lightweight with another economic lightweight."
Santorum had a tart reply. "If Mitt Romney's an economic heavyweight, we're in trouble."
Including Romney's victory last weekend in Puerto Rico, the former Massachusetts governor had 522 delegates going into the Illinois voting, according to The Associated Press count. Santorum had 253, Gingrich 135 and Paul 50. If Romney continues on the same pace, he will lock up the nomination before the convention opens in Tampa, Fla., next August.
However, the Santorum campaign argued Tuesday that the race for delegates is closer than that.
Santorum contends the Republican National Committee at the convention will force Florida and Arizona to allocate their delegates on a proportional basis instead of winner-take-all as the state GOP decided. Romney won both states.
On Tuesday, about four in 10 voters interviewed as they left their polling places said they were evangelical or born again. That's about half the percentage in last week's primary states of Alabama and Mississippi, where Santorum won narrowly. Despite an unusually lengthy race for the nomination, less than a third of those voting said in the polling-place survey they hoped the primary season would come to a quick end even if that meant their candidate might lose the nomination.
The findings came from preliminary results from the survey of 1,078 Illinois Republican voters, and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. The exit poll was conducted for The Associated Press and the television networks by Edison Research at 35 randomly selected polling places around the state.
As Illinois Republicans voted on Tuesday, Romney raised more than $1.3 million at a luncheon in Chicago. He planned an election-night event in nearby Schaumburg, Ill., while Santorum was in Gettysburg, Pa., site of Illinois favorite son Abraham Lincoln's most famous speech.
Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, has been seeking to make up in broadcast interviews what he has lacked in advertising money.
On Monday, his campaign began before sun-up and ended well after dark, including four appearances at rallies around the state as well as an extraordinary 19 radio and television interviews. He accused Romney anew of putting his signature on a Massachusetts health insurance law that is similar to the one Obama pushed through Congress.
Romney cut short his planned time in Puerto Rico, site of a primary last weekend, to maximize his time in Illinois. He has eked out victories in other big industrial states over the past few weeks, beginning in Michigan on Feb. 28 and Ohio on March 6. Defeat in any would be likely to trigger fresh anxiety within the party about his ability to wrap up the nomination.
Illinois was the 28th state to hold a primary or caucus in the selection of delegates to the nominating convention, about halfway through the calendar of a Republican campaign that has remained competitive longer than most.
A change in party rules to reduce the number of winner-take-all primaries has accounted for the duration of the race. But so has Romney's difficulty in securing the support of the most conservative of the GOP political base. Santorum and Gingrich have struggled to emerge as the front-runner's sole challenger from the right.
Whatever the reasons, the race appeared unlikely to end soon, with Santorum and even Gingrich vowing to campaign into the convention.
Next up is a primary Saturday in Louisiana where Santorum projects confidence following twin triumphs a week ago in Alabama and Mississippi. There are 25 delegates at stake.
Behind Louisiana is a three-primary night in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Wisconsin on April 3, with 95 delegates combined at stake.
Santorum is not on the ballot in Washington, D.C., but is ahead in opinion polls in Maryland. Wisconsin - adjacent to Illinois - shapes up as the most competitive primary of the night.
Election officials say nearly a quarter of Illinois counties and the city of Aurora are reporting that some primary ballots are too large and don't fit into scanning machines.
A number of the more than 20 counties impacted include East Central Illinois.
Jim Tenuto of Illinois State Board of Elections says all votes will be counted, but tallying may go slower than usual in affected counties. He says the board is working with local election authorities to assess the problem.
"We're trying to gather as much information as we can," Tenuto said. "Apparently the balllots are too wide I believe, and they won't fit into the machine, and it's affecting 25 counties."
He says ballots from two vendors are causing problems in 25 counties. But not all precincts in those counties are affected. Some ballots are fine, even in the affected precincts.
Counties reporting ballot size problems include: Vermilion, Iroquois, Douglas, Grundy, McLean, Clark, Coles, DeWitt, Edgar, Macon, Macoupin, McDonough, Moultrie, and Shelby.
(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Radio)
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