November 04, 2014

Champaign Unit Four Voters Defeat Bond Referendum

Champaign Public Schools will have to try again for the money to build a new high school and renovate an existing one. The referendum for a $149 million-dollar bond sale failed last night — 52 percent voting no and 47 percent voting yes.

School Board President Laurie Bonnett says the district plans to do a voter analysis study, to find which residents might need more convincing. She says the district's high schools are already overcrowded, and it will only get worse without an increase to property taxes to fund construction.

"There are some that say, 'You know, I can't afford that.' And I get that," she said. "But I also don't know that we can afford not to have a place for our kids at the table, in the classroom ... So if there are community members that have a suggestion as how to add 500 seats, and, no, trailers don't count--then I'd be happy to hear their suggestions."

The bonds would have paid for construction of a new high school on the north end of Champaign, to replace the 76-year-old Champaign Central High School building, and for the expansion and renovation of 47-year-old Centennial High School.

Unit Four officials noted overcrowding at both schools, and a lack of athletic fields at Central, as well as modern learning facilities like science labs and collaborative spaces.

But many residents expressed opposition to building a “new Central High School” on the very northern edge of the city, instead of in a more central location. School officials say there was no central location available that would offer the space the new high school campus would need.

Bonnett says the district might try again on the April ballot, but may have to table the effort for the time being.

November 04, 2014

Quinn Refuses To Concede Until Provisional Ballots Are Counted

Gov. Pat Quinn is not conceding his re-election bid to Republican Bruce Rauner.  Quinn told supporters Tuesday evening that there are outstanding votes to be counted and he doesn't "believe in throwing in the towel." 

With more than 90 percent of precincts reporting, Rauner led Quinn by about 4 percentage points. Rauner gave a victory speech outlining his goals for the state. However, Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson says there are a large number of votes in Chicago and Cook County to be counted, including provisional and mail ballots.

Rauner is a Winnetka venture capitalist who sought public office for the first time. Quinn is a Chicago Democrat who sought a second full term. It's one of the most competitive governor's races in the nation.

November 04, 2014

Catlin, Jamaica School Districts Vote To Consolidate

The tiny Jamaica and Catlin school districts will become a little less tiny next summer. Voters in both South Vermilion County districts approved a referendum to consolidate into the new Salt Fork.

The consolidation referendum won with majorities of 56% in Catlin School District 5, and 57% in Jamaica School District 12. Voters also elected a 7 member board to govern the new Salt Fork school district when it becomes a legal entity on July 1st, 2015.

Catlin School Board President Jeff Fauver supported consolidation, and was also elected to the new Salt Fork School Board. He says when the new board takes over Jamaica and Catlin schools next July 1st, they’ll build on the cooperation the two districts have had for several years in their cooperative high school sports programs.

"We have worked together for over 20 years in our sports cooperative", said Fauver. "And I think now we’re taking this to a new level in regards to academics. We’re excited about the opportunity to offer our kids more curriculum than is being offered today in either district. And we’re real excited about the opportunity, looking forward for the Salt Fork District."

Under consolidation, Jamaica High School and Catlin Middle School will close. Backers say the resulting efficiencies and combined tax base will help them restore educational programs they’ve had to cut over the years. But they still expect to have to look for new options in the 2020’s.

Jared Fritz, a Jamaica parent, who worked against consolidation on the Thrive For Better Education Committee says he wishes the new Salt Fork school board well. But he has concerns about unforeseen problems that may crop up along the way. Fritz’ group had wanted to study other options, such as partnering with other school districts, and other types of partnerships, like a cooperative high school.

 Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka
(Seth Perlman/AP)
November 04, 2014

Democrat Sheila Simon Concedes to Republican Judy Baar Topinka in Comptroller Race

Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka has been re-elected to a second term over Democratic challenger Sheila Simon.  

The Riverside Republican is a former three-term state treasurer. She campaigned on having a better understanding of the check-writing job's intricacies than her opponent.  

Topinka cheered her supporters and staff Tuesday, saying she has "the best darn office in the state."  

Simon, of Carbondale, is the lieutenant governor. She sought to portray Topinka as an old-style politician guilty of using clout. Simon said she would have brought unprecedented transparency to the position. In a concession speech Tuesday, Simon said she was happy to have been part of the process.  

Topinka says she's implemented a policy of prioritizing payments for nonprofits and social service agencies as the state deals with a multibillion-dollar bill backlog.  

Bruce Rauner
November 04, 2014

Bruce Rauner Wins Contest For Illinois Governor

Republican businessman Bruce Rauner has unseated Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, ending Democrats' 12-year grip on President Barack Obama's home state.

The matchup between the Winnetka venture capitalist and the Chicago Democrat was among the most competitive and costly nationwide. Rauner's win helps the GOPvcomplete a near-sweep of Midwest governorships.Quinn had pushed issues affecting everyday people. He also reminded voters how he navigated Illinois out of crisis after the two previous governors went to prison. He tried to paint Rauner as an out-of-touch multimillionaire.

Rauner countered by saying a vote for Quinn would support politics as usual. He began his run with a statewide push for term limits, then focused on a federal lawsuit scrutinizing hiring under Quinn and the incumbent's support for make a tax increase permanent.

Rodney Davis
November 04, 2014

Rodney Davis Wins Second Term In 13th Illinois Congressional District

Republican U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis has defeated former judge Ann Callis to hold on to his seat representing Illinois' 13th Congressional District.

With all precincts reporting, Davis received 122,661 votes or 59%, to Callis' 86,126 votes, or 41%.

Davis is a first-term congressman from Taylorville. Callis is a Democrat from Edwardsville and former Madison County chief judge.

The race was seen early on as one of the most competitive in the nation, but there were signs as Election Day approached that Davis was pulling away. He is a former projects director and campaign manager for U.S. Rep. John Shimkus. Callis worked to portray him as a Washington insider who's part of the dysfunction in Congress.

Davis says that in his second term, he wants to focus on the rapidly disappearing federal road fund.

"Well, I want to make sure that I go back to my Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and work on rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure", said Davis on election night. "I want to make sure we work on ending the dysfunction in Washington D.C."

Replenishing road funding has been stalled for years. Davis did not have a prediction on what a solution would look like or which new revenue sources could make up a package, but says he looks forward to the debate. 

In an election night statement, Callis wished Davis and his family the best, and thanked her supporters. And she said that "I'll continue to look for opportunities to help struggling families, individuals, and communities."

UPDATE: This article has been revised to include additonal comments from Callis and Davis - 11/5/14

Lisa Madigan
November 04, 2014

Attorney General Lisa Madigan Wins Third Term

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has been re-elected to a fourth term over Republican candidate Paul Schimpf.  

The Chicago Democrat had been widely expected to win another four years in the job she's held since 2002. She easily won her last two elections, had raised millions and built a national profile by playing a key role in multi-state lawsuits. Many had expected her to run for governor, but in July she announced she would seek re-election instead.  

Schimpf of Waterloo is a prosecutor and U.S. Naval Academy graduate. He focused on promises to fight corruption.  

Madigan is known for a 2012 settlement she helped negotiate with mortgage lenders over fraudulent practices after the housing bubble burst. Her office also has investigated for-profit colleges that allegedly left students unqualified for jobs.  

John Shimkus
November 04, 2014

John Shimkus Re-Elected To 15th Congressional District

15th District Congressman John Shimkus (R-Collinsville), has been re-elected to the U.S. House, easily defeating challenger Eric Thorsland of Mahomet.

Now that he’s returning for a 10th term, The Collinsville Republican said he has hopes for an omnibus spending bill, as well as working on a long-term highway funding measure.

Shimkus also remains optimistic about the chances for GOP control of the US Senate.

"If Republicans take control of the Senate, Leader (Sen. Mitch) McConnell will changes the rules back," he said.  "I think there's a lot of Democrats that would like to have a chance to offer amendements.  They need to pass their bills, and then we can go to conference.  So a lot of this will be on the backs of the Senate, which has been pretty dysfunctional.  I don't think anyone would deny that's been the fact.  If they can move bills and they can get through their chamber, then we conference and we can put things on the president's desk."

Shimkus has been criticized by Thorsland as being a bit complacent after 17th years in the House, but Shimkus said his voting record speaks for itself.

Senator Dick Durban
November 04, 2014

Dick Durbin Re-Elected To U.S. Senate

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin has defeated Republican state Sen. Jim Oberweis to win a fourth term.

The Senate's second-ranking Democrat had been expected to keep the seat he's held since 1997. He campaigned as a champion for the middle class, pushing for a higher minimum wage and tax breaks for companies that keep good-paying jobs in the U.S.

The 69-year-old from Springfield also says his tenure and position on Capitol Hill have helped him bring billions of dollars in federal funds back to Illinois.

Oberweis called Durbin a career politician and accused him of losing touch with voters. The 68-year-old dairy entrepreneur from Sugar Grove said he had the business background to create jobs. Durbin painted Oberweis as too extreme for Illinois.

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