- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 4, 2010

CHICAGO | Closely watched primary races for Illinois governor were still undecided Wednesday for both Republicans and Democrats as officials scrambled to count every vote.

Gov. Pat Quinn claimed victory in the Democratic primary over Comptroller Dan Hynes, though the margin was less than 1 percent. Though President Obama called Mr. Quinn to offer his congratulations, Mr. Hynes refused to concede.

On the Republican side, state Sen. Bill Brady led by just a few hundred votes over state Sen. Kirk Dillard.

Tuesday’s first-in-the-nation primary did decide the field in the race for the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by Mr. Obama. Democrat Alexi Giannoulias, the state treasurer and a basketball buddy of the president, will face five-term U.S. Rep. Mark Steven Kirk.

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. The victories in an increasingly Democratic-leaning state would be another blow to Mr. Obama, already stung by the Republican victory in a Massachusetts special election for the late Edward M. Kennedy’s Senate seat.

The Blagojevich scandal already played a role in the Senate race. The incumbent, Roland Burris, chose not to run because Mr. Blagojevich appointed him to the seat, sullying his reputation so much so that he could find little political support. Mr. Obama, who cast an absentee ballot, tried to recruit some big-name Democrats but came up empty.

Democrats who did get in the race had their own troubles. Mr. Giannoulias’ only previous job was working for a family bank that is now in financial trouble, and a treasurer’s office investment program lost millions of dollars for families saving for college.

Mr. Kirk is likely to question Mr. Giannoulias’ judgment while linking him to larger Democratic troubles.

“We know that one political party cannot hold all the answers and that one political party should never hold all the power,” Mr. Kirk said.

Mr. Giannoulias signaled he will go on the offensive.

“As we saw in Massachusetts, voters are angry,” Mr. Giannoulias said. “For the past decade, Congressman Kirk has been a huge part of the problem.”

In the governor’s race, Mr. Quinn is trying to win the job on his own merits after inheriting it a year ago when Mr. Blagojevich was ousted in disgrace over charges including the allegation that he tried to sell Mr. Obama’s former Senate seat. He said it was time for Democrats to unite and focus on keeping the governor’s seat in November.

“The time for fighting is over,” Mr. Quinn said as he thanked voters at a Chicago train station. “The tradition in our party is that people come together after the primary and work together for the candidates in the fall.”

Mr. Hynes’ campaign manager, Michael Rendina, said the nomination could hinge on how many absentee and provisional ballots remain to be counted.

Absentee ballots can trickle in for the next two weeks. In addition, Illinois lets people vote despite questions about their registration status; now officials must decide which of those provisional ballots are valid.

The inconclusive results in the governor’s races postpones the Republican push to retake the governor’s office.

Mr. Brady, from central Illinois, is the more conservative of the two Republicans. Mr. Dillard, who lives in the Chicago suburbs, has positioned himself as a pragmatist who can get things done in an often-paralyzed state capitol.

One or both of the governor races could wind up in a recount. Illinois law doesn’t require recounts in close races, so the candidates would have to decide whether to request one and cover the costs.

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