Tuned out voters didn't turn out in primary

By Ann Knef | Mar 22, 2006

Republican Jim Oberweis hammered away at his primary rivals, aiming his strongest attacks at Judy Baar Topinka. Oberweis' downstate campaign was well-organized and vigorous. In Madison and St. Clair counties, he received 63 percent more votes than Topinka.

St. Clair County Clerk Bob Delaney: turnout 13%

Madison County Clerk Mark Von Nida: turnout 15.9%

Family dysfunction in the GOP and an unwelcome snow storm on the first day of spring contributed to an abysmally low voter turn-out in the primary election March 21.

At 13 percent, St. Clair County Clerk Bob Delaney said turnout was down 4 percent from the last gubernatorial primary in 2002.

"We had bad weather in the morning and throughout the day," Delaney said. "I had expected 17-20 percent turnout.

Delaney said the only irregularities that occurred included a person arrested in Alorton for campaigning too close to a polling place; and several disputes over precinct committeemen races, which were managed by his office.

Five hundred forty six people took advantage of early voting in St. Clair County, and approximately 500 did in Madison County.

Madison County Clerk Mark Von Nida said that only 15.9 percent of voters turned out, down from 25 percent in the 2002 gubernatorial primary election.

Considering that bad weather also played a factor in the primary four years ago, Von Nida said it was peculiar that more Republicans didn't come out this time.

"I would have predicted that Republicans would have turned out," he said, referring to a heavy emphasis on TV advertising by high profile GOP gubernatorial candidates.

A total of 13,895 Democratic votes were cast in the governor's race in Madison County. Republicans cast 9,647 votes for governor by comparison.

Chairman of the St. Clair County Republican Committee, Bill Zychlewicz, said it's not unusual for Democrats to turn out in greater numbers than Republicans in primary races. Typically, they have more vested, he said.

"Democratic races are completely different," Zychlewicz said. "They have contested county board races and contested precinct committeemen races. We just don't have that."

He also said there was a "low intensity" interest level in the GOP race for governor even though the main competitors were "polar opposites."

"That's partly because Judy Baar Topinka was not exactly out here campaigning," said Zychlewicz. "And Oberweis was going so negative that people lost interest. It became not a battle of issues but of personalities. People quit listening."

Joe Behnken, an outspoken political activist and former chairman of the St. Clair County Republican Committee, said that the "conservative, heartland vote was well-reflected in this election."

"Most people are not interested in a pro-choice, pro-civil-rights-for-gays governor," said Behnken.

Judy Baar Topinka, who won the state's Republican nomination with 38 percent of the vote in a crowded field of candidates, topped second place finisher Jim Oberweis, who received 31 percent of the vote. However, in both Madison and St. Clair counties, conservative Oberweis overwhelmed pro-choice Topinka.

In Madison County, Oberweis got 4,734 votes to Topinka's 2,960. In St. Clair County, Oberweis got 3,027 votes to Topinka's 1,548.

"Many Republicans are really conflicted over whether they want four more years of Blagojevich or possibly eight-to-12 years of Topinka," said Behnken. "A lot of moderate and conservative Republicans, in my opinion, are not going to go vote for her because she is so philosophically against what they feel is morally right."

In comparing Tuesday's primary with the primary election four years earlier when Topinka was running for re-election as state treasurer, Topinka's support in the Metro-East has plummeted. In 2002's primary race for treasurer, Topinka received 10,188 votes in Madison County and 6,967 votes in St. Clair County.

Behnken said the drop in support for Topinka has to do with the policy-making office she is seeking, over the "paper-pushing" one she hopes to leave behind.

"I don't think Judy Baar Topinka ever had real competition in a primary before," Behnken said. "Her flippant attitude on serious moral issues cost her conservative votes."

The only other contested race of significance in the Metro-East, the Democratic primary for the 5th Appellate Court, was notable for the surprising success of under-funded candidate Bill Berry in Madison County.

Berry got 55 percent of the vote, or a total of 6,888 votes in Madison County, compared to Bruce Stewart, who received 5,620. In St. Clair County, however, Stewart soundly defeated Berry, 9,024 votes to 5,701.

Though judicial candidates in the 3rd Circuit did not face primary challenge, Judge Don Weber and attorney Dave Hylla, viewed their returns favorably.

"I was pretty happy with the results," said Weber, who garnered 7,756 votes in Madison County. He pointed out that in the primary race of 2004, Lloyd Karmeier –who went on to become an Illinois Supreme Court justice- received 11,000 fewer votes than his Democratic rival Gordon Maag.

Hylla got 11,515 primary votes, the most, he noted, of any judicial candidate in the Metro-East.

"I was pleased," he said. "It's my first time. It's exciting to see your name on the ballot. I know that the numbers show that there are areas that I need to get out and meet people so they can get to know me."

Glancing at the 2006, 2002 and 1998 gubernatorial primaries, interesting voter patterns are obvious. For instance, Metro-East Republicans strongly favor conservative candidates running for policy-making offices –but as a party don't always coalesce around one candidate. The Democratic Party has a strong ability to deliver votes.

In the following lists, where there are two numbers, the first represents the candidate's vote total in Madison County, the second number, St. Clair County.

2006 General Primary
Republican Governor

  • Topinka: 2,960; 1,598
  • Oberweis: 4,794; 3,027
  • Brady: 1,349; 594
  • Gidwitz: 514; 369

    Republican Lt. Governor
  • Birkett: 2,094; 1,207
  • Rauschenberger: 2,012

    Democrat Governor
  • Blagojevich: 10,635; 13,503
  • Eisendrath: 3,260; 3,093

    5th Appellate
  • McGlynn: 7,423; 4624

  • Stewart: 5,620; 9,024
  • Berry: 6,888; 5,701

    3rd Circuit (Madison County)
  • R-Weber: 7,756
  • D-Hylla: 11,515

  • R-Hackett: 7,449
  • D-Crowder: 11,437

    20th Circuit (St. Clair County)
  • R-Evans: 4,515
  • D-Cueto: 10,813

    2002 General Primary
    Republican Governor
  • Pat O'Malley: 7,385; 5,522
  • Jim Ryan: 3,444; 1,930
  • Corinne Wood: 1,612; 987

    Democrat Governor
  • Blagojevich: 17,994; 12,993
  • Burris: 3,659; 6,969
  • Paul Vallas: 4,258; 1,920

    Republican Lt. Governor
  • William A. O'Connor: 4,263; 2,823
  • Carl Hawkinson: 2,725; 1,753
  • Charles Owens: 1,681; 1,200
  • Jack McInerney: 1,814; 1,361

    Democrat Lt. Governor
  • Quinn: 8,978; 6,245
  • Michael Kelleher: 9,958; 8,338

    Republican Treasurer
  • Judy Baar Topinka: 10,188; 6,967

    Attorney General
  • Joe Birkett: 5,511; 3,585
  • Bob Coleman: 4,975; 3,492

  • Lisa Madigan: 16,801; 13,684

    U.S. Senate
  • Jim Durkin: 1,450; 6,150
  • John Cox: 2,845; 2,331
  • Jim Oberweis: 1,952; 1,413

  • Durbin: 23,098; 14,716

    5th Appellate
  • John Long: 9,536; 8,665

  • Melissa Chapman: 15,593; 11,972
  • Jim Wexstten: 4,430; 3,412
  • Patrick McCann: 3,926; 3,426

    1998 General Primary

    Republican Governor
  • George Ryan: 8,469; 6,904

  • Poshard: 13,521; 12,119
  • Quinn: 6,155; 4,154
  • Burris: 2,093; 3,898
  • Schmidt: 2,855; 1,573

    Republican Treasurer
  • Judy Baar Topinka: 8,477; 6,654

    Republican Attorney General
  • Jim Ryan; 9,327; 7,487

    Republican Secretary of State
  • Al Salvi: 5,558; 4,184
  • Robert Churchill: 4,622; 3,792

    U.S. Senate
  • Peter Fitzgerald: 7,619; 6,124
  • Loleta Didrickson: 2,744; 2,035

  • Carol Mosley Braun: 12,371; 12,184

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