In the race for Illinois State Treasurer, Republican Tom Cross' lead widened ever so slightly Tuesday over Democrat Mike Frerichs. But that 500 vote advantage is microscopic, when compared to the 3.3 million votes cast.
A week after Election Day, thousands of ballots across Illinois still need to be counted in what might become the closest race in Illinois history. The candidates are currently split by 0.001 percent.
Dozens of volunteers from both campaigns have been stationed for days at the Cook County Clerk's office, where they watch officials counting ballots from the suburban areas of the county.
It's in suburban Cook where the Cross campaign alleges some voters cast more than one provisional ballot before Election Day. Cross' campaign manager, Kevin Artl, says their office found repeated voters on a list provided by the County Clerk.
"That's just one small sample," he said. "As we get more data, we'll do more investigative comparing to early voting ... It was concerning to us and we took it to David Orr's office and we told them we want to work with them to correct the problem."
But the County Clerk calls this accusation "irresponsible" and says the Cross campaign is "confused."
Over at the Frerichs' camp, spokesman Dave Clarkin says they've been riding out the counting period, and says he doesn't want to discount ballots yet to be counted downstate.
"We don't want clerks to feel like they're being rushed, we want to make sure that those ballots are being counted accurately," he said. "We had a really large volume of ballots that were cast by mail. In a close race like this, it makes a difference. In other races it doesn't."
Both campaigns say they're looking forward to more solid results by next week.
Carol Ammons made history this week. And when she's sworn in this January, the Democrat hopes to fight some of the same battles as her predecessor, but also many reforms she sought locally.
The Urbana Alderwoman and former Champaign County Board member will become the first African-American from the county to serve in the General Assembly.
Ammons will succeed Democrat Naomi Jakobsson in the House’s 103rd District.
Priorities will include criminal justice reform, education funding, boosting the state's minimum wage, and finding ways to work with Governor-Elect Bruce Rauner.
"I've spoken to several represenatives already, and they're excited about saying, 'this is what we like to get done, speaking to the new governor, and put in a position on the floor as far as what's a priority for our communities,' " Ammons said, in an interview with Illinois Public Media's Jeff Bossert.
She said her priorities include having more educational sessions in her home district, just as she has done the last few months.
“We had a tax talk, we had an environment justice panel," Ammons said. "So for us, we want to make sure that we continue to do those things, and I’ll put out a calendar of events, for sessions that we will host for the public to come and learn about what our state government does.
Ammons said she’ll be a 'student of political structure' in coming weeks. That includes attending the University of Illinois’ ‘State of the Campus’ Address in Chicago Monday and orientation for the legislature the following week.
Mayor Laurel Prussing will appoint someone to fill Ammons' seat on the Urbana City Council.
Her council term runs until 2017, and Ammons said it's possible voters will pick someone to serve those remaining two years in April's municipal election.
Gov.-Elect Bruce Rauner has named three higher education experts to his "transition team," a group he says will help the new administration identify problems and solutions facing the state.
Rauner tapped University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise, and Trustee Ed McMillan, as well as Glenn Poshard, a former Congressman and newly retired president of Southern Illinois University.
University of Illinois spokesman Tom Hardy says membership on the transition team will be an opportunity to advocate for issues that come up again and again with the state.
"High priorities are always the state appropriations, the level of direct financial support ...regulatory reform, issues around pensions and employee benefits."
During his campaign, Rauner said he'd advocate for greater state spending on higher education, and increased MAP grants for low-income students. But he didn't provide specifics on where that revenue would come from.
When the Monticello school board meets next week, members are expected to discuss the voters’ rejection in Tuesday's election of a $40 million bond referendum to build a new high school, and turn the old high school campus into a district-wide grade school.
The referendum was defeated by a voter of 2,344 to 1,977.
Monticello School Board President Jim Dahl says it’s time for board members to take a step back to better understand what the community is asking for.
Dahl says he knows that many voters wanted more specifics about where the new high school would be located and what it would look like --- specifics that would have cost money to find out.
“It’s a good question to ask, because certainly, people want to understand what they’re quote-unquote 'buying'", said Dahl. "On the other hand, it requires expenditures with kind of an uncertainty to it. And the board was not, at that point in time, willing to spend the money without truly understanding exactly where we’re going to land on community support for a new building.”
In contrast to Monticello, voters in the Champaign school district also rejected a high school bond referendum Tuesday. In their case, school officials had already chosen a site, on the northern edge of the city. Dahl says that Monticello voters have said in community meetings that they prefer a central location for a new high school.
While Monticello school district voters rejected the bond proposal, they --- along with the rest of Piatt County --- approved a county-wide sales tax for school facilities, by a vote of 3,769 to 3,255.
However, Monticello school officials say the projected $400,000 annual revenue from the sales tax won’t generate enough money by itself to build or remodel a high school.
Republican investor Bruce Rauner will be the next governor of Illinois -probably. He declared victory over Gov. Pat Quinn, but the Democrat is refusing to concede.
Rauner made hundreds of millions of dollars as a private equity investor. Lately, though, he’s been investing in himself — spending $27 million of his vast fortune on a quest to become governor of Illinois.
He outspent Quinn by more than two-to-one, and in so doing made this by far the most expensive campaign in Illinois history. But, speaking to supporters at a Chicago hotel Tuesday night, he seemed to think it was worth it.
“Are you ready for a new direction? Are you ready to bring back Illinois?" he asked supporters.
His victory was no sure thing. Across the country, 2014 was a Republican year. But Illinois is still a blue state. And Quinn has beaten the odds before, barely winning a full term the year after Rod Blagojevich’s impeachment elevated him to the top job.
After months of public appearances, thousands of blistering attack ads, and polls that had the race in a dead heat — Rauner appears to have defeated Quinn by five percentage points, 51 to 46. Despite Rauner’s win, Illinois is still in many ways a Democratic state.
"The voters have spoken," Rauner said. "The voters have asked for divided government. For the first time in many years, we’ll have a Republican governor and a Democratic legislature."
During the campaign, Rauner liked to talk about about the “trio of terrible government,” lumping together Blagojevich, Quinn and House Speaker Michael Madigan. But on election night he was singing a new tune.
“Just a few minutes ago ... I called Speaker Madigan. (boos) I called President Cullerton. (more boos) And I said, ‘This is an opportunity for us to work together,’ " Rauner said.
Rauner will need the cooperation of the Democratic leaders if he hopes to get anything done. On that front, just what his agenda consists of is a bit of a mystery.
Will Rauner seek to weaken government employee unions, like he talked about in the Republican primary? Will he focus on economic issues like in the general election?
He seems to be pivoting again, talking about the need to make Illinois a state that is competitive — and compassionate.
“We can judge our state, we can judge our nation, by how well we care for our most vulnerable citizens," Rauner said. "That is a good way to judge the quality of our life and our families."
Kent Redfield, a political scientist who’s long observed state government from the University of Illinois Springfield, says this is a new message.
“I think if you went back and looked at the commercials, there’s an awful lot about shaking up Springfield and all the things that were going wrong, but we didn’t hear a lot of compassion," Redfield says.
He says there’s a reason Rauner’s speech was moderate.
“The reality is that he’s dealing with huge majorities," Redfield says. Majority Democrats will probably have to cut spending, and reluctant Republicans will have to find more revenue.
“The speaker and the Senate president are going to demand that there be Republican votes on those roll calls to raise taxes," Redfield says. "So it’s going to be a fascinating legislative session."
If you ask Gov. Quinn, we are getting ahead of ourselves. Yes, the Associated Press, NPR, NBC, and other outlets have all declared Rauner the winner. But Quinn is refusing to concede.
“I don’t believe in throwing in the towel if that many votes are being counted," Quinn said.
He spoke for less than three minutes, and said it could take days to count the outstanding ballots.
“We will never, ever yield to a result until all the votes are in," Quinn said.
Even if he does lose, as seems inevitable, Quinn is not out of power yet. There are still veto and lame duck sessions of the legislature before Rauner would take office in January.
Voters in two counties have overwhelmingly rejected efforts to place hazardous waste in the Clinton Landfill in an advisory referendum.
90-percent of DeWitt County voters said they were against disposing hazardous PCB waste in the landfill, over the Mahomet Aquifer.
The Illinois EPA recently chose to rescind the permit for PCB waste, a decision that’s being appealed by landfill owner Peoria Disposal.
Steve Bridges with the Aquifer’s Protection Alliance said this vote helps, as those owners will have to return to the DeWitt County Board for local siting.
"We've been working the farmer's markets, and even the (DeWitt County) Apple and Pork Festival," he said. "And the response we were getting back from the public was overwhelmingly opposing this. 90-plus percent return is excellent."
Bridges says there was a mindset locally among some backing the measure that a chemical waste landfill would have meant more money for DeWitt County coffers, a concept he doesn't agree with.
The support was even greater in Piatt County - 94 percent.
"I hope that if the permit for toxic waste is not permanently withdrawn, other counties will join in and voice their protest," said DeWitt County Board member Kathleen Piatt.
Bridges now hopes more of the 15 counties served by the Mahomet Aquifer - including Champaign - pass their own similar measures.
Democrat Carol Ammons is Representative Naomi Jakobsson's new successor for the retiring lawmaker's seat in the Illinois House. Ammons says she's eager to follow in Jakobsson's footsteps, starting with a tax overhaul.
Ammons soundly defeated Republican Kristin Williamson in the race for the 103rd House seat. The Democrat, who wasn't even predicted to win her primary race in March, says she'll take ownership of Jakobsson's policies in the legislature.
One such policy is the push for a graduated state income tax, where the more money you make, the greater percentage you pay. Ammons says she’s prepared to take difficult votes right off the bat.
"We've got to do some real hard stuff,"she said. "We've got to look at some comprehensive tax reform, we've gotta work on that progressive income tax measure so we can generate revenue for our state."
Jakobsson tried pushing through a graduated tax last spring, but her effort was overtaken by a different graduated tax proposal.
Ultimately, that version failed in the legislature, too.
Ammons also says she's prepared to wade into the murky waters of Illinois' pension battle.
A circuit court is scheduled to rule on Illinois' pension law next month, which will likely go to the state's Supreme Court. Ammons says she wants to help craft a new pension law -- one that doesn't cut state employees’ benefits, like the law passed last year.
"What I've given thought to is all the unions that have supported me for this race. I expect that they'll be at the table, we'll come together and we'll come up with something that really works for the people who we say we represent in this state."
Jakobsson voted against Illinois' pension overhaul last December.
Congressman John Shimkus is headed back to Washington for a 10th term representing Illinois’ 15th district.
The Collinsville Republican easily defeated Democratic challenger Eric Thorsland.
Shimkus says he looks forward to working with a US Senate soon to be led by fellow Republicans.
“A lot of this will be on the backs of the senate, which has been pretty dysfunctional. And I don’t think anyone will deny that fact. If they can move bills and they can get through their chamber then we can conference and we can put things on the president’s desk.”
When the final votes were counted, Shimkus won 75 percent to Thorsland’s 25 percent.
Champaign Democrat Mike Frerichs says it may be a week before voters know who won the contest for Illinois treasurer.
Frerichs and Republican Tom Cross both ended the day with about 48 per cent of the vote. Frerichs told supporters on Tuesday night that he’s waiting for every last ballot to be counted.
“We find ourselves locked in a very close race." He said, "A race that’s very unlikely to be decided this evening. There are a lot of provisional ballots out there, there are mail-in ballots out there. So, we are not done. We have not given up yet.”
Frerichs currently serves as a state senator. If he wins the race for treasurer, he would be the first Democrat from Champaign county ever elected to a statewide constitutional office.