SPRINGFIELD, Illinois — Michael Freichs' 9,225-vote victory in the race for state treasurer was the third-closest statewide contest in more than a century, according to records collected and analyzed by The Associated Press.
The Illinois State Board of Elections proclaimed the Democratic state senator from Champaign as the winner of the Nov. 4 election during a special meeting Sunday. Freichs won with 48.1 percent of the vote to 47.8 percent for Tom Cross out of 3.5 million votes cast.
According to the data dating to 1900 reviewed by AP, the 0.261 percentage-point difference makes it a tighter campaign than any other except the 1982 battle for governor and the 1952 race for secretary of state.
The board's official canvass also showed Democrats claiming three House races that were too close to call on Election Day, meaning Democrats in both the House and Senate will retain veto-proof majorities against Bruce Rauner, the incoming Republican governor.
The victories by first-term Reps. Kate Cloonen of Kankakee and Mike Smiddy of Hillsdale, along with a squeaker by Deputy Majority Leader Frank Mautino of Spring Valley in winning a 13th term, allowed House Speaker Michael Madigan of Chicago to retain a 71-47 advantage in the chamber he has lead for most of the past three decades. Senate Democrats lost a seat but maintain a comfortable 39-20 supermajority.
It was the face-off between Rauner and six-year incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, that gained the most attention, with polls giving the matchup the potential to eclipse the granddaddy of all nail-biters, the 5,074-vote victory incumbent GOP Gov. James Thompson pulled out over his Democratic rival, former U.S. Sen. Adlai Stevenson III, in 1982.
But Rauner beat Quinn by 142,284 votes, according to the election board canvass.
Instead, the race that conjured talk of a recount was the little-noticed battle to replace outgoing Treasurer Dan Rutherford, who ran unsuccessfully in the GOP primary for governor.
Cross, the former House minority leader from Oswego, held a nearly 20,000-vote lead on Election Day. But in a year when the Democratic-controlled Legislature adopted new voting rules to make it easier for people to cast ballots, Frerichs ate away at the lead with tens of thousands of mailed-in votes, and those cast provisionally on Election Day. At one point both campaigns estimated fewer than 400 votes separated the two
Frerichs's victory dampens the celebration for Rauner, who reclaimed the governor's office for the GOP for the first time since 2003. Besides the Winnetka businessman, only Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka won a statewide constitutional office for Republicans.
Rauner made Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton of Chicago targets of his attacks on Springfield "insiders" during his campaign. But he has said he is willing to work with all parties and has made phone calls to scores of rank-and-file legislators in advance of his January inauguration.
Illinois State Board of Elections: http://elections.state.il.us/
Contact John O'Connor at https://twitter.com/apoconnor
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