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Even though the Illinois governor’s race was too close to call on Wednesday morning, it represented a number of races across the state and nation in which Republicans made significant inroads into Democratic strongholds.
Incumbent Democratic governor Pat Quinn held a lead of about 9,000 votes over challenger state Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington). About 97.5 percent of the precincts – representing 3.3 million votes – had been tallied, but the margin was too small to declare a winner.
Quinn seems likely to emerge the victor, but his close call should be a wake-up call.
Riding the public sentiment for more fiscal restraint, Republicans captured several seats in the Illinois House and Senate, and also became the majority party in the U.S. House of Representatives. The message seemed to be that the Democratically controlled bodies have allowed the pendulum to swing too far to the left. A balance between the parties usually produces a healthy political atmosphere and better legislation.
Already feeling the effects of a sluggish economy, voters rejected further efforts to expand government programs and raise taxes. That was the rallying cry of state Sen. Kyle McCarter (R-Lebanon), as he successfully defended the post to which he was appointed 18 months ago when former state Sen. Frank Watson (R-Greenville) stepped down for health reasons.
One of the positive results of the Republicans gaining the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives is that Rep. John Shimkus (R-Collinsville) will be in a position of leadership on many of the committees on which he serves.
In Illinois, with a budget deficit recently estimated at $14 billion and the state’s fiscal house in disarray, the Republican themes of fiscal reform and job creation seemed to have resonated with voters. We must address the deteriorating employment atmosphere in the state; we’re losing too many businesses to neighboring states that have fewer taxes and a more favorable business climate. We're also hamstringing countless school districts, pharmacies, retirement homes and other social service providers because the state isn't paying its bills.
It’s time for our representatives to put the partisan election rhetoric behind them, reach across the aisle and work on bipartisan measures that can get the state headed in the right direction. Clearly, those changes will involve cutbacks in a variety of areas; and both parties must participate in the turnaround. It will be painful, and good programs will have to be trimmed. But the precarious financial position our state is in has gone beyond serious; major changes are needed to restore our credibility and create a future for our children.
If this week’s election can teach us anything, it is that the voters want to see the state – and the nation – head in a different direction. Getting our fiscal house in order must be the cornerstone of that change.