- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 3, 2010

UPDATED:

CHICAGO — An Illinois primary election that was supposed to set the stage for a high-stakes political showdown in President Obama’s home state instead produced intense confusion: virtual ties in the Democratic and Republican races for governor.

Gov. Pat Quinn held a tiny lead Wednesday over Comptroller Dan Hynes in the Democratic primary. The margin of less than 1 percent was enough for Mr. Quinn to claim victory, but Mr. Hynes insisted the fight was not over.

Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias won the Democratic nomination for the Senate seat Mr. Obama once held. He will face Republican Mark Kirk, a moderate five-term congressman who is likely to question the 33-year-old Mr. Giannoulias’ experience and judgment.

Losing the Senate seat in the increasingly Democratic-leaning state would be a bigger personal embarrassment for Mr. Obama than Republican Scott Brown’s upset victory last month in Massachusetts for the Senate seat held for decades by the late Edward M. Kennedy.

Three Republicans were also in a near deadlock in the primary race for governor. State Sens. Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard, along with businessman Andy McKenna, were within about a percentage point of one another.

Republicans hope to win the Senate seat and the governor’s mansion in November by exploiting Democratic turmoil and scandal, including former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s ouster over corruption charges that include the allegation he tried to sell Mr. Obama’s seat.

The inconclusive results in the governor’s races postpones the Republicans’ push to retake the governor’s office. Republicans don’t know who ultimately will be their nominee or their opponent.

Two months ago, it appeared Mr. Quinn would win the Democratic nomination easily. But he was weighed down by the baggage of his two campaigns with Blagojevich, his support for a major tax increase and a botched program that granted early release to some violent prison inmates.

The Blagojevich scandal could play a role in the Senate race as well.

The incumbent, Sen. Roland Burris, chose not to run because Mr. Blagojevich appointed him to the seat, sullying his reputation so badly he could find little political support. Mr. Obama, who cast an absentee ballot, tried to recruit some big-name Democrats but came up empty.

Associated Press writers Carla K. Johnson, David Mercer and Sophia Tareen in Chicago, Jim Suhr in Troy, and AP photographer M. Spencer Green in Chicago contributed to this report.

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