Voters in Illinois are going to the polls Tuesday to decide several crucial primary races.
Besides casting ballots for president, other high-profile races include a three-way battle for Cook County state’s attorney and a U.S. Senate primary to decide which Democrat will face off in the fall with, most likely Sen. Mark Kirk. Though Kirk faces challenger James Marter, he is considered a safe bet for his party’s nomination.
He will face either U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, former Chicago Urban League president Andrea Zopp, or Illinois state Sen. Napoleon Harris.
State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez faces challengers Kim Foxx and Donna More, in a campaign often dominated by dissatisfaction over Alvarez’s handling of the Laquan McDonald killing, as well as other police-involved shootings.
In the presidential primaries, Hillary Clinton, who had been leading comfortably in her home state, is trying to fend off a suddenly surging Sen. Bernie Sanders after the Vermont senator pulled an upset last week in Michigan.
GalleryVoter turnout at the polls Tuesday was relatively low despite record early voting in Chicago and suburban Cook County.
Chicago Board of Election spokesman Jim Allen said he thinks overall voter turnout will be around 40 percent, well below the 53 percent turnout for the 2008 primary when Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were vying for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Just 17 percent of voters cast ballots in the 2012 presidential primary election when Obama was unopposed.
The plethora of high-profile races motivated some voters, including Lynn Brezina, 63, a dog trainer who cast her ballot at Mather High School.
“I have never been more disgusted by the way the country is moving, and the policital climate — and yet, on the same hand, never more excited to go out and vote,” Brezina said Tuesday morning.
In her case, it was Sanders who motivated her.
“I’m a Bernie voter,” Brezina said. “He’s a public servant who’s spent a lot of time working for people. … I like his single-payer insurance idea. I don’t think there’s any reason that people shouldn’t have insurance in this country, and I think education should be free.”
In the Cook County state’s attorney race, she said, she voted for Donna More, because “I know people who’ve worked in the state’s attorney who know all three of those people and think she is the better candidate.”
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Michael Alpert, 32, and Joanne Flannery, 33, also voted Tuesday morning at Mather High School, 5835 N. Lincoln Ave.
“Bernie has me really excited,” said Flannery who, like her husband, voted for Sanders. “I think he wants to create change … from the inside out. That would be amazing for our country.”
Alpert agreed, saying: “He’s a revolutionary from the inside.”
And Flannery even agrees with some who say some of Sanders’ policy proposals are unrealistic.
That’s because “I think everyone’s are.”
But once anyone takes office, she added, “they look at the realities off the situation, and they do what they can.” And in that scenario, Sanders would “make more progress than Hillary would make.
Both Clinton and Sanders were in Chicago on Monday — Clinton for several events during the day before heading downstate, and Sanders for a late-night rally at the Auditorium Theatre before thousands who waited hours outside on Wabash Avenue.
Lauren Johnson, 27, a student and Uber driver, said it’s time for a woman in the White House. So Hillary Clinton got her vote, as well as Kim Foxx for Cook County state’s attorney.
“It was important to me to get (Anita) Alvarez removed,” Johnson said. “She had ample opportunity to do a few things as far as our policing system. … I feel as if she dropped the ball there.”
Tuesday, Sanders had a breakfast event in the Chicago area, and former President Bill Clinton made several campaign stops on the West Side and South Side on behalf of his wife.
Among’s Bill Clinton’s stops was a quick visit to the Pilsen Satellite Senior Center, where he was warmly received by seniors, most of whom didn’t need listening to Clinton’s hoarse voice — “I’ve lost my voice serving my candidate,” he joked — to be convinced to vote for his wife.
“She’s energetic, she’s down to earth and she really goes for what people need — immigration rights and things like that,” said Guadalupe Paz, 62, who voted early for Hillary Clinton.
“I’ll never forget this day,” said Lenora Johnson, 75.
And on the Republican side, favorite Donald Trump is trying to avoid the upset by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. High-profile Republicans are going all-out to stop Trump from winning crucial victories Tuesday in Illinois, Ohio and Florida – victories that could nearly lock up the nomination for the businessman and reality TV star.
And of course there is the proxy battle being waged in the Illinois House’s 5th District, where incumbent Rep. Ken Dunkin is paying the price of siding with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner against House Speaker Michael Madigan. Dunkin has been well-funded by Rauner backers, while challenger Juliana Stratton has gotten backing from Madigan.
There also are some fights in the suburbs, including the 10th Congressional District, where former congressman Brad Schneider faces Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering in the Democratic primary that will decide if Schneider will get his third rematch with U.S. Rep. Bob Dold, whom Schneider defeated in 2012, only to lose to him two years later.