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Mark Kirk supporters watch the election returns at the Wheeling campaign party.

Whatever the outcomes, voters say they're ready to heal, move forward and have victors fix the economy

by Katie Hinterlong and Joel W. Withrow
Nov 02, 2010

As the percentage of districts reporting inched up Tuesday evening, Republicans, Democrats and in-betweens gathered around Illinois to wait out the election results with their chosen candidates.

Going to the polls, voters weighed their own light wallets against a $13 billion state deficit and staggering federal spending. The two top Illinois races -- for governor and U.S. Senate -- looked tight.

“This is one of the oddest elections I’ve ever seen in Illinois politics in my life,” said Stan Parks of Batavia. “It’s sort of like the perfect storm in Illinois politics.”

Parks, who noted he was a longtime Republican, had come to the Allegro Hotel downtown to support Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn. But Illinois, he said, appears to be moving towards the other side of the aisle.

“People are voting Republican in this election for other reasons, besides the real issues,” Parks said. “It’s the same state that voted overwhelmingly for Obama, it’s the same people.”

If there was one recurring theme that emerged from voter interviews Tuesday, it was the need for national unity to repair the ailing economy.

Outside U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulis' election night event at the Fairmont Hotel in Chicago, insurance salesman Eddie Mcgregory said his main concern was the future of Illinois’ economy.  

“They need to get more jobs to Illinois,” Mcgregory said.  “That’s about it. I am about more jobs.”

At the campaign event in suburban Wheeling for U.S. Senate hopeful Mark Kirk, jobs proved a key issue for Republican supporters as well.

“For me, the issue is job creation in Illinois,” said Glenview’s Peter Pappas, who is 40 years old and unemployed. “I think that Kirk has the maturity to help create jobs in Illinois.”

At gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady's campaign party in downstate Bloomington, some Republicans seemed ready to put the elections behind them.

“Just like any election, we’ll have to get behind the governor and get some solutions,” said Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady. “Whoever wins or loses, we’ve got to get together to clean up the state.”

Democrats at the Quinn campaign party shared in the call to move forward.

“If Quinn does lose, we have to be supportive of the next governor,” said Gwendolyn Blake of Southeast Chicago.  “You don't turn your back and say 'Oh my god I can't stand that guy.’”

Such a conciliatory attitude might come as a surprise, given the predominance of negative campaigning during the U.S. Senate and governor’s races.

But standing outside the Giannoulias event, Drake Elementary School teacher’s assistant Lapellia Williams added that, win or lose: “For Illinois, this is our only last hope, our only last chance,” she said. “We’re all in this together. Illinois is in this together.”

Contributing: Haia Radwan, Kate Shepherd, Bob Spoerl, Courtney Subramanian, Phillip Swarts, Andrew Theen, Alex Wilson.