GOP picks Bill Brady to challenge Illinois governor Quinn

Both incumbent Governor Pat Quinn and GOP candidate Illinois Sen. Bill Brady won their primary races by slim margins. The race to fill President Obama's former US Senate seat will be hard-fought as well.

M. Spencer Green/AP
Republican state Sen. Bill Brady, speaks during a news conference accompanied by his children Duncan and Katie on Friday, March 5 in Chicago. Brady emerged as the Republican nominee for governor when the State Board of Elections declared him the official winner by a mere 193 votes.

After a month of political wrangling, Illinois State Sen. Bill Brady was named the Republican challenger for the governor’s office in the November election.

Mr. Brady faces incumbent Governor Pat Quinn, a Democrat, in a race that will likely reveal the political divide between downstate Illinois, traditionally a more conservative region of the state, and northern Illinois, dominated by the machine politics of Chicago. The race will also test the strength of the state Democratic Party in an election year in which it is particularly vulnerable.

Brady won his party’s nomination by 193 votes, according to the state board of election Friday. He battled for the nomination with state Sen. Kirk Dillard, who lives in Hinsdale, a western suburb of Chicago. Dillard was considered to have more name recognition in Chicago, where most voters live.

The Illinois governor’s race also includes Green Party candidate Rich Whitney of Carbondale.

The race is a first for Mr. Quinn, a former lieutenant governor who took office in January 2009 following the impeachment of Rod Blagojevich. In his one year in office, Quinn has faced several hurdles: a prison release program criticized when it was discovered some inmates returned to committing crimes, an admissions scandal at the University of Illinois, cutbacks in crucial state services, and a $13 billion budget deficit. (Monitor report on Quinn's close primary race here.)

Brady is an unsuspected challenger: One of six Republican challengers, he was the only one representing downstate Illinois, and he spent no money on media ads in the Chicago area during the primary. He is calling for cutbacks in state programs to shrink the deficit, which contrasts with Quinn who is seeking tax hikes.

The race is one of two in Illinois making state Democrats nervous this political season. The second is the race between US Rep. Mark Kirk (R) and Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, for the Senate seat left vacant by President Obama. (Monitor analysis here.)

Mr. Giannoulias, a personal friend of Obama’s, is considered vulnerable because of his short political career – he has filled the state treasurer’s office for just two years – and the ties to convicted Illinois influence peddler Antoin “Tony” Rezko and local crime figure Michael “Jaws” Giorango who both once received loans from a bank the Giannoulias family owns.

The bank is also on the verge of collapse. According to the Chicago Tribune, Broadway Bank has until the end of April to raise $85 million in capital it needs to continue operating.

Mr. Kirk is considered a moderate Republican who will appeal to fiscally conservative yet socially moderate north suburban Democrats who may be dissatisfied with Obama.

This week a bank spokesman told the Associated Press that Broadway Bank is saddled with $24 million in nonperforming assets, or bad loans, and about 9 percent of them originated when Giannoulias worked at the bank.

That has provided an opportunity for Kirk to portray Giannoulias as “reckless.”

Alexi Giannoulias engaged in the same kind of reckless lending that brought our US economy to its knees,” he said.

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