GOP will gain seats in Senate
REPUBLICANS want to regain a majority in the state Senate, and they think they have a chance to do it this year. To get control of the Senate, they must pick up five seats currently held by Democrats while not losing any of their own. The Republicans, of course, want to return the Senate to what they think of as its normal state.
For the last 58 years, the Illinois Senate has been dominated by the GOP. Since 1920, there have been only six Senates controlled by the Democrats. Four of the Democratic Senates were elected consecutively between 1932 and 1940. The other two are the current Senate and its immediate predecessor, elected in 1976 and 1974, respectively.
Some of the factors which have historically affected majority control of the Senate are reapportionment, national or statewide political trends, passage of controversial legislation and presidential or gubernatorial elections. The Senate is more susceptible to these factors than the Illinois House where political control is hard to predict because of cumulative voting.
The most recent switchover in majority control of the Senate began with the 1970 election. The previous Senate, which had been carried by the strong Republican national ticket in 1968, had 38 Republicans and 20 Democrats.
But in 1969 the Republican-controlled General Assembly passed, and Republican Gov. Richard B. Ogilvie signed, the state income tax which meant a substantial tax increase for most Illinois residents. At the polls in 1970, voters showed the Republican party how they felt about more taxes. The Democrats picked up nine seats that year, resulting in a split Senate with each party having 29 members.
Two years later President Richard M. Nixon was making his reelection bid, and the state GOP had high hopes that what was obviously going to be a Nixon landslide would help return the Senate to Republican control. Adding to party optimism was the 1972 reapportionment, which changed the number of senatorial districts from 58 to 59. Republicans expected reapportionment would help them widen their margin in the Senate as it had in 1956 and 1966.
What the Republicans didn't figure on was the emergence of Dan Walker as a dominant political figure in Illinois. Walker's successful campaign for governor quelled in Illinois the Republican tide which swept the nation. The GOP got a mere one-vote margin in the Illinois Senate with 30 Republicans and 29 Democrats. For the Republicans this was an upset. Although the Republican-controlled General Assembly flexed its political muscles in those years to block Gov. Walker whenever possible, there wasn't much of a majority to work with.
In the aftermath of Watergate, the Republican party suffered losses across the nation. Voter disillusionment extended to Illinois, and the Democrats were able to pick up five Senate seats in 1974. Since then, the past two state Senates have been in the control of the Democrats by a 34 to 25 margin.
This year, however, the Republicans see a real opportunity to again rule the Senate. For the first time, the gubernatorial election will be held in an "off year" between presidential elections. This could benefit the Republicans with Gov. James R. Thompson at the top of the Republican's statewide ticket. He is projected to be reelected by as many as 400,000 votes. If the gubernatorial election can set off a good Republican year, the party might win those crucial five Senate seats.
Last year Gov. Thompson targeted eight districts in which the Democrats were vulnerable. In six of the eight, the Republican candidate has a viable chance of winning. Here is a rundown on the critical districts.
10TH DISTRICT: In this district Gov. Thompson had enlisted Rep. Thomas Miller (R., South Holland) to challenge Sen. Robert Lane (D., Chicago Heights), but Miller was beaten in the primary by Aldo DeAngelis (R., Olympia Fields). DeAngelis, an industrialist and community leader, is a real threat to Sen. Lane who won by only 1,579 votes in 1974 with 52 per cent of the vote.
16TH DISTRICT: Incumbent Sen. Robert Egan (D., Chicago) is another weak Democrat. Defeated once before, he came back in 1974 to win by 2,680 votes with 52.2 per cent of the vote. William Dammeier (R., Norridge) can unseat Sen. Egan if he can accumulate enough votes in the suburban area of the district.
31ST DISTRICT: The Republicans have their easiest race here. The Republican panty nominated Rep. Adeline Geo-Karis (R., Zion) to oppose Sen. Larry Leonard (D., Waukegan) who was appointed to the position after Sen. Bill Morris (D., Waukegan) was elected mayor of Waukegan. Sen. Leonard is facing one of the strongest challenges of any incumbent.
34TH DISTRICT: When incumbent Sen. Vivian Hickey (D., Rockford) chose not to run for reelection, the Democratic spot on the ticket went to Frank Parrino (D., Rockford). This is another probable Republican win, since Rep. Lynn Martin (R., Rockford), who is running for the Senate seat, is heavily favored over Parrino.
43RD DISTRICT: Surprisingly, the Republicans' hand-picked challenger in this district decided not to run in the primary. This was Rep. Edward McBroom (R., Kankakee) who, in 1974, lost by only 3,872 votes against incumbent Sen. Jerome Joyce (D., Reddick), who won with 53.1 percent of the vote. The Republican challenger this time is L. Patrick Power (R., Manteno), the state's attorney of Kankakee, who received three times as many votes in the primary as
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59TH DISTRICT: Sen. Gene Johns (D., Marion) is another Democratic incumbent who the Republicans hope to unseat. In 1976 Sen. Johns won by 6,619 votes with 53 per cent of the vote. Challenging Johns will be George Williams (R., Marion) who is basing his campaign on the accusation that Johns has sold out Southern Illinois to the Chicago Democrats. Williams, who has been everything from a coal miner to a college professor, has no political experience but is considered a definite threat to Sen. Johns.
There are two other incumbents who might be in trouble, one from each party. Sen. Vince Demuzio (D., Carlinville) won the 49th district with 53.1 per cent of the vote in 1974, but he should run somewhat stronger against Mayor Milton Hocking (R., Jacksonville) this year. If Hocking could upset Sen. Demuzio, it would be a big boost to the Republican effort.
In the 50th district, Sen. John Davidson (R., Springfield) is not expecting as close a race this November as Dick Durbin (this year's Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor) gave him in 1976. The margin in Sen. Davidson's favor was 1,548 votes, and he won with a bare 50.8 per cent of the vote. Davidson's biggest problem this time could be his own tough campaign strategy against challenger Tim McAnarney (D., Springfield). The tactic might backfire.
There are eight other Senate races in which the incumbent is not running for reelection. No party changes are foreseen in any of these districts.
In the 1st district Rep. Roger Keats (R., Wilmette) is favored to win the seat being vacated by Sen. Brad Glass (R., Northfield) who lost his bid for the Republican nomination for state treasurer.
Sen. James Soper (R., Cicero) has decided to retire and will probably be succeeded by Leonard Becker (R., Cicero) in the 7th district.
Also retiring are Sen. Richard Guidice (D., Chicago), 19th district; Sen. Fred Smith (D., Chicago), 22nd district, and Sen. Harber Hall (R., Bloomington), 44th district. Their seats will probably be won, respectively, by Edward Nedza (D., Chicago), Rep. James McLendon (D., Chicago) and John Maitland, Jr.
When Sen. Norbert Kosinski (D., Chicago) died earlier this year, his 14th district seat was taken by Sen. Hugh Ziomek (D., Chicago) who will most likely be retained (as of July 12 Ziomek had not been certified by the Board of Elections as a candidate).
The only incumbent to be defeated in the primary was Sen. Richard Clewis (D., Chicago), 17th district. The Democratic nomination was won by Steven Nash (D., Chicago) who received 15 times as many primary votes as his Republican opponent.
The other incumbent not running for reelection is Sen. Thomas Hynes (D., Chicago), the president of the Senate, who is the Democratic candidate for Cook County assessor. Sen. Hynes' seat in the 28th district will almost assuredly go to Jeremiah Joyce (D., Chicago).
In spite of GOP hopes, the general belief is that the Republicans will pick up some seats, but not enough to have a majority in the Senate. As for the candidates themselves, 46 per cent feel that the Democrats will hold their majority in the Senate, 29 per cent predict the Republican takeover and 24 per cent see it as a toss-up or chose not to answer (see table 1).
All factors considered, political control of the Illinois Senate could go either way. As one challenger responded, "It will depend on the man upstairs." Whether or not he was referring to Gov. Thompson is not clear.
More survey results on next page.
August 1978/ Illinois 1978/23