At Manny's, the venerable delicatessen on Chicago's Near West Side, lunchgoers tucked into corned beef sandwiches and potato pancakes as a cluster of candidates on today's ballot shook hands and passed out literature.
Alexi Giannoulias, the Democrats' nominee for U.S. Senate, arrived first to work the restaurant just before the noon hour. It proved a friendly crowd. A man with an "I Voted" sticker on his green jacket jumped out of his seat to say hello to Giannoulias, telling the state treasurer he cast his ballot for him. Michael (he declined to give his last name) told Progress Illinois he lives in the 10th District, represented since 2001 by GOP Senate candidate Mark Kirk. Michael said he was unimpressed with Kirk, criticizing him for his positions on the Bush tax cuts. Debra Owe, a University Park resident, greeted Giannoulias, listing a simple reason why she cast her ballot for him: "He's a Democrat." Other patrons posed for photos with the candidate between bites of food. Giannoulias said in the campaign's hectic final hours he's telling voters they have a "stark choice" between two competing visions, and a vote for Kirk will empower big corporations. Watch:
Also arriving at Manny's during the lunch hour was the Democratic candidate for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle; she and Giannoulias took some time to chat and visited a few tables together. Forrest Claypool, who's running for Cook County Assesor as an Independent, also passed through to distribute pamphlets. And Scott Lee Cohen even showed up around 1 p.m. to push his gubernatorial candidacy.
For all the candidates, the ground game on Election Day is very basic -- saying hello, hitting meet and greets, shaking hands, and finding many people at once to make one last pitch. "At this point it's mostly large crowds -- retail politics," said Giannoulias spokesman Scott Burnham. The state treasurer's campaign, according to Burnham, will conclude the day at senior buildings and train stops. And hopefully with a little boost from the lunch crowd at Manny's.
SEIU's Illinois State Council (which sponsors this website) isn't
the only operation putting foot soldiers on the ground to get out the
vote this afternoon. The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee
Rights (ICIRR) and its partner organizations, for example, are targeting
their outreach in immigrant-heavy neighborhoods in both Chicago and the
nearby suburbs. An estimated 1,420 volunteers will knock on doors and
call registered voters, which ICIRR hopes will mobilize "133,128
immigrant voters." (We talked to one voter earlier this morning who
placed immigration issues on the top of his agenda.)
phone bank at Gov. Pat Quinn's headquarters in Chicago, meanwhile, was
humming late this morning, with callers reaching out to prospective
voters from a variety of locations and in several languages. It's just
one portion of the campaign's GOTV effort, which field staffers feel
confident will give their candidate a reasonable chance to win tonight.
"We feel good about the plan that's been in place," says Russ
Breckenridge. "We're not leaving anything to chance." (Early election
returns were not available by the time we left the Democrat's office.) Below are two of the campaign's volunteers:
himself is making sure one specific voter gets to the polls: his mom.
Every election, Quinn takes his 93-year old mother out to vote. This
year, staffers say, will be no different.
While polls are giving GOP gubernatorial nominee Bill Brady and
Senate nominee Mark Kirk a slight edge entering today's contests, most
election watchers estimate that the races will be close. Turnout in
Chicago's collar counties, particularly among women, could be the most significant factor in determining the outcomes. (Hopefully, Independent suburban females have learned about Brady's abhorrent stances on reproductive rights and stem cell research.)
Willard Helander, the Lake County Clerk, told PI this morning that the polls in her county were "not crazy, but busy." She said it was "extremely probable" that turnout would be "higher than
52 percent." One of the reasons: voter referendums,
such as the historic effort to recall Buffalo Grove Trustee Lisa Stone. Over in Kane County, Clerk John Cunningham said he expected roughly 90,000 and
100,000 of the 213,000 eligible voters in his county to cast a ballot by day's
In the northwest suburbs and then again
downtown, few voters were confident they could predict tonight's
winners. Here's a short compilation we shot of several reactions:
Also keep an eye on Chicago's figures. If 50 percent of registered voters in the city participate today, the Democrats will have a real shot at winning the major statewide races tonight.
a statement from the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, which crunched the state's final
contribution numbers this morning, gubernatorial candidates in Illinois are on pace
to spend more on their general election and primary campaigns this year
(roughly $63 million) than ever before. The current record of $60.5
million was set four years ago.
An interview with a younger Latino voter outside of Yates Elementary School on Chicago's Northwest Side this morning illustrated one of the big issues motivating the Latino community to the polls this year: immigration reform, or the lack of it. Marchello Calixta, pictured at the right, said he wanted to cast a ballot today specifically for Congressman Luis Gutierrez (4th District), who has championed comprehensive immigration reform legislation on Capitol Hill, and Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias, who Calixta hopes will help get an immigration reform bill passed in the Senate.
"They know what issues are big here in Illinois. One of them is immigration," he said about the state treasurer's campaign. Calixta, 30, is of Puerto Rican descent, meaning that his family is not ensnared by the legal limbo of having an undocumented status. But he still feels solidarity with immigrants who are. "They're still our brothers," he says. "We have to look out for them."
In Illinois, an estimated 10 percent of the registered electorate two years ago were "New American voters" -- immigrants or the children of immigrants. It's a big voting bloc that's looking for leadership on immigration reform in Washington, and that may drive up turnout here and in other races around the country. Recent polling data
from the pollster Latino Decisions shows that the number of Latino voters (both immigrant and native born)
enthusiastic about the midterms jumped in the last weeks of October. The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, meanwhile, plans to mobilize more than 133,000 immigrants to the polls today, according to a press release.
Calixta, before he left Yates, also said he was motivated to vote today for another basic reason: to back Chicago's hometown president. "The big thing is Obama and supporting him," he said. That's something Democratic candidates up and down the ticket this Election Day are hoping will make a difference for them by the time the polls close this evening.
Election officials manning two of Chicago's East Ukrainian Village precincts were
optimistic this morning that turnout today would be high for an off-year
election. At Wells High School, 35 voters had cast their ballot by
roughly 7 a.m., a pace one judge called "pretty busy." Several voters
proved that they weren't that familiar with standard voting rules,
whipping out their driver's licenses before they were told a state
identification card was unnecessary. "So just anybody can vote?" one
burly man in his mid-30s (who might have watched a little too much Fox News
this week) muttered to himself. "That's f***ed up." (A person only needs
to verify the signature on his or her voter registration card to obtain
A polling place inside Happy Village, a dive bar
favored by the Near West Side hipster set, experienced a "healthy spurt"
during the 6 a.m. hour, according to officials there. Like
elsewhere in the city, they say early voting and grace period voting
levels in this precinct grew over 2006 totals. Signs for both
front-running Cook County Assessor candidates, Independent Forrest
Claypool and Democrat Joe Berrios, littered the yards surrounding the
bar. Just a few miles from Berrios' 31st Ward offices, it seems the
Independent was hoping to raise his name recognition in what might be considered a
Gov. Pat Quinn has two messages he'd like voters to take with them to the polls today. The first, which he laid out
to the AP yesterday, is that a vote for the incumbent means Illinois
will not fall backwards. (This point was made with a little more gusto
this spring by Planned Parenthood's Beth Kanter, who told us that the
views of GOP gubernatorial nominee Bill Brady are "antediluvian.") The
second is that the Democrat is a fighter. Here's his closing ad, in
which he says he will "go anywhere and do anything to bring jobs home."
Our Bill Brady Reader, titled "Wrong For Illinois," is available here.