Professor weighs in on election results: ‘Definitely not a red wave’
SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - Nearly all of the races have been called across Illinois and many voters are now trying to decipher what the results from the 2022 General Election mean. Some expected to see a “red wave” in Illinois, but Democrats won every statewide office and took 14 of 17 Congressional races.
House and Senate Republicans had a historic number of candidates running in contested races against Democrats. However, they barely picked up any seats.
Political observers noted that 2022 should have been a good year for Republicans as President Joe Biden’s approval ratings are low. Reuters reported Monday that 57% of Americans disapprove of Biden.
Still, University of Illinois Springfield Professor Emeritus Kent Redfield said Thursday that Illinois Republicans didn’t have enough resources to compete with Democrats.
“There was definitely not a red wave nationally or in Illinois,” Redfield said. “So having all of those candidates out there, if the Democrats were nervous they had more than enough money to spend in races that they really didn’t need to worry about.”
Redfield said the options are limited for Republicans in the General Assembly because they have to deal with a gerrymandered map favoring Democrats and are heavily outspent. He said Republican candidates didn’t have a chance to match Democrats financially this year without donations from billionaire Ken Griffin and former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.
While Gov. JB Pritzker was just elected to his second term, some national media outlets and top Chicago political reporters have already mentioned his name for the presidential race in 2024. Springfield political observers hope the governor will keep his focus on the statehouse instead of the White House.
Some pundits have noted that Pritzker’s victory speech Tuesday night played to a national audience by criticizing former President Donald Trump and only mentioning his opponent, Sen. Darren Bailey (R-Xenia), once.
It has been rare to see a governor serve two terms in Illinois. The last governor elected to a second term was Rod Blagojevich, but he was impeached, convicted, and removed from office in 2009. Republican Jim Edgar served as governor from 1991 to 1999.
“A lot of old-timers will tell you the last time the state was really well run was in the latter part of the (Jim) Thompson administration,” Redfield said. “He was in office for 14 years, and he seriously wanted to make the state of Illinois work.”
Redfield said most voters like to see a governor stay in office more than four years so they can truly understand if the state improves under their leadership.
“He has an opportunity now that he’s got four years in office and four years to build on,” Redfield said about Pritzker. “I mean, he had to deal with the pandemic. But you need continuity in state government and need time to build and work on things.”
Redfield feels Pritzker will be much better off if he focuses all of his efforts on helping Illinois instead of moving on to Washington D.C. Yet, Redfield said Pritzker won’t be able to blame Rauner if the state deals with new issues over the next four years.
While Bailey lost the gubernatorial race, he gained a strong following of people across the entire state who defied COVID-19 mitigations and demanded change in education and public safety. What can state leaders do to help those voters stay involved in government instead of feeling isolated by the Democratic majority?
“When people become engaged and they try to do things at the local level, they can start to understand that decisions are hard and tradeoffs are hard,” Redfield said. “It’s so simple to sit here in 2022 and say this is how we should have handled lockdowns or this is how we should have handled masks. If we knew then what we know now, of course, we would know what the solutions are. The problem is you don’t know. Simple solutions are generally neither - they’re not simple and they’re not solutions.”
Redfield said people also need to feel connected to the government and their elected leaders. He argues that the biggest long-term problem for Illinois is partisan redistricting. Lawmakers from both parties try to get control of the process every 10 years so they can draw districts that expand their influence across large portions of the state.
“The fact that we create these made-up districts that are designed to ring the last ounce of partisan advantage out of a map is concerning,” Redfield said. “There’s no commonality and nobody feels like they are part of a district because there are hundreds of miles that separate districts. You can’t make everything super compact in downstate Illinois, but you could do things that create much more of a sense of community and identity.”
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