More than two weeks after the Nov. 4 election, state Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, claimed victory in the Illinois Treasurer’s race after Republican Tom Cross conceded.
Votes added on Tuesday from Chicago and Cook County put Frerichs up by more than 9,500 votes over Cross out of more than 3.5 million cast.
In Springfield, Frerichs described his phone call from Cross as “cordial” and “gracious.”
“We had a good conversation about the direction the state needs to be going,” Frerichs said. “And Rep. Cross was very gracious in offering his help.”
Frerichs said his transition team will be co-chaired by Michael Carrigan, the president of the Illinois AFL-CIO, and U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, and will work on a state audit he promised during the campaign.
Frerichs said he won by “less than one vote per precinct.”
At times, the vote tally was so close the contest appeared headed for a recount.
In the end, the victory was a bright spot for Democrats in the 2014 general election, which saw Republican Bruce Rauner beat out incumbent Democrat Gov. Pat Quinn. Both Illinois chambers, however, maintained their Democratic, veto-proof majorities.
Cross, the former Illinois House Republican leader, called Frerichs to concede after a long battle.
“With the final votes counted, this election now has a conclusive outcome and I have congratulated Sen. Frerichs on a hard-fought victory,” Cross said in a statement. ”Sen. Frerichs has demonstrated time and time again his commitment to our state and that will serve all of us well as he becomes Illinois’ next state treasurer.”
Frerichs’ spokesman, Dave Clarkin, said Wednesday that while the total was close, the provisional ballots counted in recent days had been trending in their favor. He pointed to “Rauner-Frerichs” voters, describing them as independents in the collar counties and downstate.
“This race was neck-and-neck in polling leading up to Election Day, but we have believed all along that if the trend continued of Mike Frerichs performing strong in downstate Illinois and the suburbs, we would win by an insurmountable margin,” Clarkin said. “What we saw emerge [Tuesday] in the suburbs exceeded our expectations. This race is being decided by tens of thousands of Rauner-Frerichs voters: independents in suburbs from Winnetka to Orland Park, from Waukegan to Joliet in the collar counties, and from Rock Island to deep Southern Illinois.”
The treasurer’s post became open when Dan Rutherford chose not to seek re-election but ran unsuccessfully for governor, losing in the March Republican primary.
Frerichs launched a clever “Stand Tall for Illinois,” TV ad campaign, playing off of his height — 6 feet, 8 inches, taller than Abraham Lincoln.
“It’s time for Illinois to measure up again,” Frerichs said in the ad.
Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider gave a nod to Cross’ more than 20 years in public service.
“I want to commend Tom Cross and his campaign team on a tough, hard-fought race,” Schneider said in a statement. “Tom Cross has given us more than two decades of service and principled leadership, and for that we are truly grateful.”
Contributing: Jon Seidel