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What happened to the widely expected House Democratic suburban sweep?

Tuesday, Dec 1, 2020

* Rep. Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield) and I have been talking since the election about what happened to the two parties in the Chicago suburbs. He’s made some very strong points during our discussions, so I asked him to put together his thoughts during the holiday and he sent me this last night…

Rich,

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. While ours was small it was actually nice to have a little down time. I used some of it to reflect on my race and others. House Republicans have a LOT to be thankful for. I thought I’d share some of my findings with you.

A “Blue Wave” definitely hit the suburbs. Republicans lost the two contested Congressional races. There isn’t a single Republican suburban Congressperson. The Illinois Senate [Republicans] lost a seat in their only contested suburban race.

But what’s most instructive is what happened at the county level.

Lake County Republicans lost every countywide race. So did Will County Republicans. Only one Republican countywide prevailed in Kane county. In DuPage County, Republicans won only one contested countywide race and the County Board flipped from 11-7 Republican to 11-7 Democratic.

The only outlier in the suburbs was the House Democrats.

We did lose two incumbents in the suburbs: Allen Skillicorn and Grant Wehrli. Allen raised about 10K and by most appearances he didn’t really run a campaign. It took $2.57M from Suzanne Ness to squeak out a 3-point win over Skilly.

While Wehrli lost, his fight was remarkably valiant. Janet Yang Rohr also spent over $2.5M to Wehrli’s $400k. But here’s the more amazing part. President Trump didn’t win a single precinct in the 41st. ZERO. I can’t think of a race where the fundamentals were so massively against a candidate and the candidate was still able to pull off a victory. Yet Grant nearly did. Forgive me for not being impressed by DPI’s two pickups.

Now, let’s look at our holds.

Remember all of the rumors of the House Dems picking up 5-8 seats? Well that’s because Stephens, Mazzochi, Morrison, Ugaste, A. Grant and I were all supposed to lose. The amount we were outspent by in those races was sickening. Yet we all won.

We picked up two seats in the suburbs: Chris Bos and Seth Lewis. Both were running against likable woman incumbents. Both were massively outspent. Seth wasn’t appointed to run until August, yet overcame roughly $2.6M in spending against him while spending about $400k.

It is clear that voters have had their fill of Madigan. The message worked well this election.

One of the best illustrations of this was in the 81st House, but it worked to our disadvantage. We had a terrific candidate running against Anne Stava-Murray — Laura Hois. She was one of our best walkers. This is the one race where we actually outspent the Dems. Yet we couldn’t make headway. A quick look at precinct totals show AS-M outperforming the Democratic countywides in overlapping precincts. Voters are tired of corruption. If they knew one thing about Stava-Murray it was that she opposed Madigan. Apparently, her opposition to Madigan was worth more than $1M.

Obviously the campaign team did a lot with the resources we had. They all deserve a lot of credit. Other than raising more money, we need to stay the course on our anti-corruption messaging. The people of Illinois are finally recognizing it!

…Adding… From comments…

Lets not forget that pre election talk was of the House GOP getting swamped and MJM getting into the range of 80 seats. And Madigan was spending every dollar he could get his hands on to make it happen. We have NEVER seen Madigan spend like this in a prior cycle.

Why? Because the more members he had, the better chance he had to stave off an insurrection. But instead of riding the anti-Trump suburban wave, he got left behind and lost seats instead.

If Madigan had gotten to 80, the 18 opponents would still be 2 short of depriving Madigan the votes to be Speaker, and the entire conversation about his future is far different today.

It’s the most impactful cycle the House GOP has had since 1994.

Agreed.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

41 Comments
  1. - phocion - Tuesday, Dec 1, 20 @ 10:45 am:

    Strong, honest analysis. And a stinging reminder to the DPI why their leader must go.


  2. - TheInvisibleMan - Tuesday, Dec 1, 20 @ 10:47 am:

    His campaign manager still claiming the election was fraudulent?

    His campaign treasurer still claiming the virus is a hoax?

    Don’t let it be lost that he puts himself in the same sentence as Amy Grant. He’s just better at not saying the quiet part out loud.


  3. - Chicagonk - Tuesday, Dec 1, 20 @ 10:48 am:

    Batinick seems really level headed. I’m glad he was able to win reelection.


  4. - Grandson of Man - Tuesday, Dec 1, 20 @ 10:48 am:

    “The message worked well this election.”

    If your opponent keeps a House super-majority after years of scathing attacks, what constitutes failure?


  5. - Frank Miller - Tuesday, Dec 1, 20 @ 10:48 am:

    It’s Not A Glitch; It’s A Feature


  6. - Powdered Whig - Tuesday, Dec 1, 20 @ 10:52 am:

    Quite a bit of an oversimplification. There is a lot of reasons why these races went the way they did that do not involve “Madigan”


  7. - Powdered Whig - Tuesday, Dec 1, 20 @ 10:53 am:

    === Batinick seems really level headed. ===

    He is Batman you know.


  8. - SpiDem - Tuesday, Dec 1, 20 @ 10:55 am:

    This is a great analysis, and goes to a point I made previously that the Durkin’s House GOP strategy of pressing the House investigation and keeping the ComEd story front and center was a disaster for the Speaker. Its really hard to argue against what Batnick lays out here.


  9. - @misterjayem - Tuesday, Dec 1, 20 @ 10:55 am:

    “The amount we were outspent by in those races was sickening.”

    As someone who can still remember the funding disparities in suburban races only ten years past, this sentence is deeply comical.

    – MrJM


  10. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Dec 1, 20 @ 10:56 am:

    === I made previously that the Durkin’s House GOP strategy of pressing the House investigation and keeping the ComEd story front and center was a disaster for the Speaker.===

    Narrator: The HDems still have a supermajority, going “-1” overall.


  11. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Dec 1, 20 @ 11:00 am:

    Because…Madigan?

    Although this time I think there’s something to it.


  12. - walker - Tuesday, Dec 1, 20 @ 11:06 am:

    Evidenced-based arguments are always welcome.


  13. - 1st Ward - Tuesday, Dec 1, 20 @ 11:07 am:

    Holding the line of super minority status…. heckuva job. The county race outcomes is the story. The ship did not turn and appears to be taking on more water. Stay on “anti-corruption” messaging - sure. Why not also pivot to the GOP plan for taxes, spending, and business. Will, Dupage, Kane, McHenry spoke loudly on that.


  14. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Dec 1, 20 @ 11:08 am:

    Rich, thanks for this post.


  15. - Sox11 - Tuesday, Dec 1, 20 @ 11:09 am:

    How come Batinick didn’t mention the loss of Cabello’s seat?


  16. - SpiDem - Tuesday, Dec 1, 20 @ 11:10 am:

    @OW

    I’m old enough to remember when you used to talk about how Durkin’s strategy was a pathetic attempt to help Mazzochi and Wherli. Instead, Mazzochi stomped her opponent, and Wherli nearly pulled it out.

    The point Batnick is making, which is again hard to argue with, is that there was most definitely a Democratic Wave in the burbs. The evidence is everywhere except with the House Dems.

    Lets not forget that pre election talk was of the House GOP getting swamped and MJM getting into the range of 80 seats. And Madigan was spending every dollar he could get his hands on to make it happen. We have NEVER seen Madigan spend like this in a prior cycle.

    Why? Because the more members he had, the better chance he had to stave off an insurrection. But instead of riding the anti-Trump suburban wave, he got left behind and lost seats instead.

    If Madigan had gotten to 80, the 18 opponents would still be 2 short of depriving Madigan the votes to be Speaker, and the entire conversation about his future is far different today.

    It’s the most impactful cycle the House GOP has had since 1994.


  17. - walker - Tuesday, Dec 1, 20 @ 11:14 am:

    It’s not just about messaging from Springfield — the winners like Mark B have some personal attributes appreciated by voters.


  18. - Gary Hart - Tuesday, Dec 1, 20 @ 11:15 am:

    Somewhere Craig Willert is polishing up his Resume. Considering the resources he had and Trump at the top of the ticket, the Republicans had themselves a great night. DPI will argue they couldn’t do their traditional “knock ’till you drop” program, but there’s very few plausible excuses left for this last election cycle. Let’s face it, members now recognize that 2022 will be challenging enough and aren’t trusting DPI these days. Gonna be an interesting development.


  19. - Southern Skeptic - Tuesday, Dec 1, 20 @ 11:16 am:

    I’ve always liked Batnick and I think his analysis is spot on. Regardless of his contributions and successes in past years, Madigan is a major drag on Democrats.


  20. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Dec 1, 20 @ 11:16 am:

    === Wherli===

    He lost. “Nearly” does not make a switch work, it’s a Dem seat now, Wehrli, a member of one of the founding families of Naperville, wholly rejected.

    === It’s the most impactful cycle the House GOP has had since 1994.===

    Narrator: With a “+1” gain overall, they staved off Madigan keeping his *largest* majority he ever had as Speaker.


  21. - Fav Human - Tuesday, Dec 1, 20 @ 11:19 am:

    by most appearances he didn’t really run a campaign

    That is the understatement of this century, so far.

    Mention Cabello

    Might not have been known when he wrote it, or he may not consider Rockford the suburbs :)

    I will also note that McHenry chased away Jack Franks, his pal Sager, and kept their county board.

    Kane surely needs work, though.

    I think his point on ASM hits home.


  22. - Candy Dogood - Tuesday, Dec 1, 20 @ 11:21 am:

    ===It’s the most impactful cycle the House GOP has had since 1994. ===

    LOL, LOL, LOL — they’re still in the super minority.


  23. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Dec 1, 20 @ 11:21 am:

    I made sure I grabbed, prolly 4-5 “bat signs” while they were out there.

    I gave a couple away to some people.

    They are still coveted.


  24. - This Just In - Tuesday, Dec 1, 20 @ 11:39 am:

    Wherli was/is lazy and raised literally none of his own money during his tenure, and never provided any evidence of the fundamentals of managing his District. Asking/forcing Republican members to be disciplined in this fashion is not enforced. Wherli came in on the Rauner checkbook and somehow thought that gravy train was the norm. He was wrong. Had he done ANY of the groundwork necessary, he would have been re-elected.

    Hence, the Skillecorn and Wherli seats really were give away seats.

    Madigan is a factor in the Suburbs. Over the long haul citizens moving to the burbs from the City is having an impact, as well as the new fringe element right having a message that doesn’t compute with Suburban voters (see the outright takeover in most Suburban counties).

    Cabello had been a Caucus of one for some time. A guy who couldn’t get out of his own way. Again, a more congenial approach and the R’s win this seat as well.

    The truth is this - despite what the Eastern Blockheads think, if you lose the Edgar, Thompson, Pat Brady Republicans, you cannot be competitive in the Suburbs and/or Statewide. Simple as that. The message is outdated, mean spirited and from another era. The anti-intellectual message being sold by the Eastern Bloc has a limited audience that is aging out of the dynamic quickly. They are selling horse drawn buggies while Henry Ford is running Model T’s down the assembly line. Good luck with that . . . . .


  25. - Olive Garden - Tuesday, Dec 1, 20 @ 11:40 am:

    Batman is one of the brightest in the GA, and has great insight into the political arena. Republicans would be foolish to not involve him in the data and vote by mail programs.


  26. - Nagidam - Tuesday, Dec 1, 20 @ 11:41 am:

    To all the folks commenting that HDEMS are still in the super-majority are not fully understanding the post. Of course they are in the super-majority. Math doesn’t lie. The post is about HGOP running a pretty good cycle and looking at the reasons why. By ALL accounts this was going to be a knockout election at all levels for Republicans. Rep Batnick pointed our fairly that it was except for the House. DPI forecasted to pick four to six seats when they actually lost one. Tip your cap to Durkin and his team and lets see what they can do in 2022 when by all accounts today, that should be a favorable election environment.


  27. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Dec 1, 20 @ 11:42 am:

    === Had he done ANY of the groundwork necessary, he would have been re-elected.

    Hence, the Skillecorn and Wherli seats really were give away seats.===

    A good portion of truth, the Illinois General Assembly, the House specifically, is a better place with Skillicorn, Wehrli, and Cabello gone.


  28. - From DaZoo - Tuesday, Dec 1, 20 @ 11:58 am:

    Are the House GOP still in the super minority? Yes. But the point of the article the way I’m reading it is they were expecting to be somewhere around net -6 seats rather than +1. And in those districts mentioned it does beg the question of why the House results were counter to the national and county results. Rep Batinick may be implying that the “because Madigan” strategy does still work but only if applied to House races. Does this mean they will examine new campaign strategies for non-House issues? In 14-18 months we’ll find out.


  29. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Dec 1, 20 @ 12:00 pm:

    With great respect, sincerely.

    === The post is about HGOP running a pretty good cycle and looking at the reasons why. By ALL accounts this was going to be a knockout election at all levels for Republicans. Rep Batnick pointed our fairly that it was except for the House.===

    The difference between good or disaster is “+1” vs. “-1”

    Why?

    The failed coup by McCombie and the changing of the guard with McConchie came down to 1 gain versus 1 loss?

    That is my *sole* point in pointing out this idea and premise, …by commenters only… not the author of this post Rich shared…

    So… “what exactly are y’all so gleeful about in the context?”


  30. - Candy Dogood - Tuesday, Dec 1, 20 @ 1:16 pm:

    If we’re letting the Illinois GOP redefine success so that remaining in the super minority is a “good” outcome, lets move the goal posts to something that matters.

    The Illinois GOP didn’t nominate a literal Nazi for U.S. House this year. Good job, Illinois GOP!


  31. - Lefty Lefty - Tuesday, Dec 1, 20 @ 1:26 pm:

    As a resident of the 65th, I can attest to the spending by the Dems for Ugaste’s opponent, Martha Paschke. It was money poorly spent, however.

    Almost every single day - not exaggerating - we’d get a piece of mail from the Democratic Party. IF one didn’t arrive on a given day, we’d get 2 the next day. As a purplish area, this very definitely turned off some potential voters.

    Also, Ms. Paschke had one TV spot, and I think it really worked against her. It was the same one over and over again about protecting children from predators. A great message, but it made her appear as a one-note tune. Couldn’t the party come up with one or two more spots?

    Anyway - tons of money spent for sure, but not effectively, for this potential pickup.


  32. - annon white sox fan - Tuesday, Dec 1, 20 @ 1:40 pm:

    These were interesting results.


  33. - Mary - Tuesday, Dec 1, 20 @ 1:53 pm:

    Look at it this way: Biden won Suburban Cook County 62:38; and Biden won DuPage 58:40. Stephens won 58:41; Mazzochi 53:47; Lewis 54:46; Yang Rohr 51:48 (Wehrli). So clearly there were people willing to vote Dem at the national level who flipped R at their local House level. But those same numbers didn’t carry through at the county level, so it wasn’t just a “vote local” issue. The “why” is 3 basic choices: bad Madigan brand; unique local issues at the state level; or the candidates had special constituencies that crossed over. In all of these races, “bad Madigan brand” had to be a factor.


  34. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Dec 1, 20 @ 2:01 pm:

    === Look at it this way:===

    Going from the largest majority ever to defend with the weakest the Speaker has ever been netted a net one loss.

    Raunerites are 15 seats away from the gavel, shaving off a whole seat, 16 seats behind last GA.

    Maybe another perspective is:

    It was thought HDems would expand to beat their record 74 total seats, the largest Speaker Madigan enjoyed, and the victory now is Speaker Madigan’s caucus sits at 73, one shy of the record breaking total last session.

    As to the post,

    I’m grateful the author of this post wrote his take and Rich put it up here for us.


  35. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Dec 1, 20 @ 2:23 pm:

    Mary is correct.


  36. - Chicago - Tuesday, Dec 1, 20 @ 2:38 pm:

    Bat made many good points. The MJM factor certainly seems to be there. One unmentioned item is how the Fair Tax probably also hurt some Dem candidates. It’s not the whole reason but I think it too must have been a factor.


  37. - Annoyed - Tuesday, Dec 1, 20 @ 2:45 pm:

    My take, and it’s seconded from a campaign staff, is defund the police and ‘socialism’ resulted in lot of traditional D’s voting Biden (because Trump is a goof) but then R on other federal and state races - Newman and Underwood being two examples. Will see if the progressives in the House (IL & US) figure this out.


  38. - Soccermom - Tuesday, Dec 1, 20 @ 3:03 pm:

    Rich is correct that Mary is correct.


  39. - Seats - Tuesday, Dec 1, 20 @ 4:21 pm:

    I think it was more of the “Fair Tax” than Madigan, not to say he wasn’t a factor. The suburbs bring with then high incomes, and the Democratic party wanted to switch to a tax that targeted high income earners. Weather it directly impacted the voter or not it did people they actually know to the point it soured the Dem brand. But didnt sour it enough.


  40. - BeenThereDoneThat - Tuesday, Dec 1, 20 @ 4:35 pm:

    Batinick works his district hard. Does the blocking and tackling (townhalls, chamber/school/city events) necessary to build necessary positive name ID. Wehrli was nowhere to be found and couldn’t stand walking door to door.


  41. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Dec 2, 20 @ 1:25 pm:

    I’m a Democrat. Madigan must go, regardless of whether he was a factor in the House outcomes. He’s an albatross around our necks.


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