Illinois governor declares victory as ballot count resumes - KMOV.com

Illinois governor declares victory as ballot count resumes

CHICAGO (AP) -- Even as ballots were still being counted, Gov. Pat Quinn claimed victory in the Democratic primary and said Wednesday it was time for the party to unite and focus on keeping the governor's seat in November.

Quinn, who held a narrow lead over Comptroller Dan Hynes, thanked voters at a downtown Chicago train station.

"The time for fighting is over," Quinn said. "The tradition in our party is that people come together after the primary and work together for the candidates in the fall."

Election officials were scrambling to count ballots, including absentee ones and paper ones from 13 precincts in suburban Cook County that didn't properly transmit Tuesday. Though the margin was less than 1 percent, Quinn claimed victory anyway.

But as of Wednesday morning, Hynes wasn't ready to concede the race, said his spokesman, Matt McGrath, adding that the campaign's focus now was to ensure all ballots are counted.

Even Cook County Clerk David Orr said it was too soon to tell.

"Every vote that is out there is important because the races are so close," he said. "We have no choice but to go through this very careful and hopefully transparent process."

Quinn said precincts where votes haven't been counted are strongly behind him. He congratulated Hynes on running a well-organized campaign but said he wouldn't ask his opponent to concede.

"It's up to the comptroller," he said.

With Republican gubernatorial candidates also in a near-deadlock, Quinn said he had no preference for his possible November opponent. He said he likes GOP state Sens. Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard personally, calling them "nice guys."

Brady and Dillard, along with businessman Andy McKenna, were within about a percentage point of one another.

Tuesday's first-in-the-nation primary did decide the field in the race for the U.S. Senate seat held by Obama until his presidential victory. Democrat Alexi Giannoulias, the state treasurer and a basketball buddy of the president, will face five-term U.S. Rep. Mark 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 over corruption charges that include the allegation he tried to sell Obama's seat. The victories in an increasingly Democratic-leaning state would be another blow to Obama, already stinging from the Republican victory in a Massachusetts special election for Edward Kennedy's former Senate seat.

The inconclusive results in the governor's races postpones the GOP push to retake the governor's office.

The Hynes camp said Tuesday that with absentee ballots, tens of thousands of votes remained to be counted.

"If democracy means anything, it means we need to count all the votes," Hynes said. "All the votes."

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

Two months ago, it appeared Quinn would easily win the Democratic nomination. 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, Roland Burris, chose not to run because Blagojevich appointed him to the seat, sullying his reputation so badly he could find little political support. Obama, who cast an absentee ballot, tried to recruit some big-name Democrats but came up empty.

The Democrats who did get in the race had their own troubles. 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.

Kirk is likely to question 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," Kirk said.

Republican leaders rallied around Kirk as their choice for the party nomination, despite complaints from some GOP activists that his support of gun control and abortion rights makes him too liberal.

Giannoulias signaled he will go on the offensive.

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

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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.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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