Absentee ballots could delay governor results up to month

Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican challenger Bill Brady were still in deadlock Wednesday instead of launching a transition or tackling one of the nation’s worst budget problems, as the Illinois governor’s race dragged on along with a handful of other contests nationwide.

Brady said he would wait as many as 30 days for results after all the votes are counted to see if he can overcome Quinn’s slim lead.

Quinn gained ground Wednesday and by evening his margin had grown to more than 16,000 votes of more than 3.6 million cast — double his lead from the night before. But the Democrat still may face a fall legislative session without any certainty he’ll be governor come January — a handicap as he tries to resolve a budget deficit that could hit $15 billion next year.

Brady, meanwhile, is left battling to prove he can win and persuade supporters to stay optimistic, rather than looking ahead to form a new administration.

Still, the possibility of not having the election settled until the state certifies results early next month won’t completely undermine government business, said Democratic Senate President John Cullerton.

“There’s a process set out in state law so that situations like this are addressed. … Regardless of the outcome, Pat Quinn is governor, and he’s going to be governor until at least Jan. 10,” Cullerton said in a statement.

Earlier this fall in an interview with The Daily Illini Editorial Board, Cullerton expressed a severe dislike of Brady, calling him “clueless.”

“Brady is Blagojevich-like in his knowledge of state government,” Cullerton said.

Votes from a relative handful of precincts in Chicago remained uncounted Wednesday afternoon. An Associated Press survey of 90 percent of the state’s election jurisdictions found as many as 50,000 absentee and provisional ballots also had yet to be counted.

“I seem to have a penchant for close elections,” Brady said, a jab at his earlier election in February, which Brady won with just 420 votes more than challenger Kirk Dillard. “Having been through this process before I know the importance of making sure every voice is heard and every vote is counted. I believe we will win.”

Champaign County’s vote in the election was decisively conservative. While early numbers from the precincts showed Brady with only a razor-thin lead — at one point just 40 votes — by the end of the night, numbers had settled in and Brady took the county with 54.66 percent of the vote to Quinn’s 39.22 percent.

Going red isn’t new for the county; while Champaign voters picked current President Barack Obama in 2008, in the 2002 and 2006 gubernatorial elections they voted soundly against ex-Governor Rod Blagojevich in favor of his challengers Jim Ryan and Judy Bar Topinka, respectively.

State Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-52, who brought home a victory for his district Tuesday, wasn’t convinced immediately that the decision on the state’s next governor would be an easy one to decipher.

“It (the governor’s race) shows that the public is very evenly divided. We’ve got a little while to know who our governor will be. It can take as many as 30 days,” Frerichs said. “I think most people are betting that Gov. Quinn will win.”

Frerichs said that before the vote, he did not have a solid prediction for the outcome.

“It’s been an interesting year. It’s been fairly even,” he said. “At this point, I’m just anxiously awaiting the final vote count.”

Quinn could get an early indication Thursday of how the close election will affect his ability to lead. The Senate has scheduled a vote to deal with a key issue of Quinn’s: borrowing $3.7 billion to make Illinois’ payment to its pension system. Quinn’s office said he was not expected to travel to Springfield.

The Associated Press contributed to this report