Illinois Public Media News
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)
In Champaign County, County Clerk Gordy Hulten says voter turnout looked pretty good Tuesday morning.
Hulten has spent the morning touring polling places, and comparing the traffic to the last presidential primary in 2008. Hulten isn't sure if today's turnout will surpass the more than 39,000 ballots cast four years ago - but he says he's still hoping to reach 35,000.
Hulten says almost 31-hundred of those ballots have already been cast during early and absentee voting.
"I think our early and absentee totals were a little higher than they were four years ago. And I think some of that may have been that the election is Spring Break Week," Hulten said. "And we have people who knew they were going to be out of town, so they took advantage of early and absentee voting.
Hulten says one of the busiest polling places today is in Champaign Township Precinct Five, in unincorporated southwest Champaign. That's where residents of two fire protection districts are considering tax increase referenda.
Only minor problems are being reported from Illinois polling places several hours into the primary election.
A power outage in Wheeling caused voters to use paper ballots in several precincts. One Chicago precinct may stay open an hour later because of a problem delivering ballots.
Election officials in several areas say turnout has been very light so far.
The unusually warm weather is pleasing to poll watchers working outside. Cook County Clerk David Orr says instead of freezing, they're "happy as clams.'' Voters are weighing in on presidential nominees in the Republican primary. Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum campaigned in Illinois on Monday.
Voters also are deciding on congressional and legislative races that could shape Illinois politics for years to come.
Meanwhile, voters in central Illinois are taking advantage of the rare chance to weigh in on a presidential nomination before anyone has it locked up.
Richard Zellers of St. Joseph, just east of Champaign, says he voted for one reason: In his words, "to get President Obama out.'' The retired Kraft foods worker says he voted for Rick Santorum. But he adds that "if a frog was running against Obama'' he'd vote for the frog.
Santorum campaigned in Illinois on Monday, and the former Pennsylvania senator pleaded with supporters to head for the polls and take other people with them. It was an acknowledgment that a big turnout by anti-Mitt Romney conservatives was key to him winning in a state that's traditionally been friendlier to moderates.
Polls are open until 7 p.m. across the state.
(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Radio)
Indiana's governor Monday morning signed the state's first-ever anti-smoking bill into law at a public ceremony at the statehouse in Indianapolis.
Smoking won't be welcome at Indiana restaurants, but smokers need not to worry - there will still be plenty of places to light up in the Hoosier state, and restaurants have time to prepare for the change; the ban doesn't go into effect until July 1. Smokers will still be able to get their fix in Indiana casinos, bars, cigar shops and private clubs.
Gov. Mitch Daniels said he understands the bill won't please critics who wanted a stronger law, but he said it was important to get something on the books while lawmakers were in the mood.
"Indiana has wrestled for a long time in how to protect public health, employees in particular and public spaces against the hazards of second-hand smoke," Daniels said. "It's been a very, very long march. Lots of interests that need to be balanced."
Daniels credited state Rep. Charlie Brown (D-Gary) with getting the measure past the finish line. Brown had spent six years advocating for a smoking ban.
"Got to say, Charlie, I'm really happy for you. You have worked so long and so tirelessly on this and never gave up," Daniels said. "I hope you feel you've achieved a really great thing here."
The number of exemptions has proven to be a controversial issue, though, especially among groups critical of smoking. Amanda Estridge, lobbiest and spokeswoman for the American Cancer Society of Indianapolis, said her organization did not support the final legislation.
"It's much harder to change a bill once it becomes law," Estridge said. "We don't agree that something is better than nothing."
Estridge said the law does not protect the 17,000 people who are employed by Indiana's gambling industry. She added Indiana spends $3.8 billion a year on smoking-related health care costs, with 11,000 annual deaths being attributed to the habit.
John Livengood is the president of the Indiana Restaurant Association. He said for most restaurants, the smoking ban is a good thing.
"I've always encouraged (businesses) to try because for most restaurants, it does not hurt their business," Livengood said. "In fact, it may help their business."
Livengood also heads the Indiana Hotel and Lodging Association. He said hotel rooms may have a tough time enforcing the smoking ban since it's difficult to control what goes on in a hotel room.
The ban takes effect in July.
Former Champaign Mayor Virgil Wikoff is being remembered as someone who served as a voice of reason during a turbulent time in the U.S.
Wikoff passed away Friday at the age of 85 after a long illness. After being elected the city council in 1963, he served as mayor from 1967 through 1975, and also served three terms in the Illinois House.
Former Champaign Mayor Dan McCollum says he'll most remember Wikoff talking to a packed Bethel AME Church on the night Martin Luther King Junior was assassinated.
"It was a nice gesture to not only show sympathy and understanding, but I think relate to a significant portion of the population," McCollum said. "It was very, very disturbed what had happened. Of course, I don't think that the black community were the only people terribly disturbed about what had happened. Clearly, that was where the mayor needed to show up, and he did."
McCulloum says Wikoff also sought to maintain order during movements near the University of Illinois campus tied to the Vietnam War. He says the two had different views politically, but says he also developed sympathy for what a predecessor to the office of mayor had to deal with.
Services for Virgil Wikoff will be at 10 Friday morning at the Morgan Memorial Home in Savoy, with burial in Maroa cemetery. Visitation is from 5 to 7 on Thursday.
(Photo courtesy of the Champaign County Historical Archives)
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