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Quinn concedes, Rauner launches transition team

A bleary-eyed, sobered Gov. Pat Quinn on Wednesday finally stepped up to the lectern and admitted what most people in Illinois already knew: He had failed in his bid for re-election.

His concession came roughly 16 hours after Republican Bruce Rauner declared victory in the Illinois governor’s race and 90 minutes after it was apparent Rauner was moving forward, announcing he had appointed his transition team.

“It is clear we do not have enough votes to win the election,” a forlorn-looking Quinn said in a brief statement to reporters at the Thompson Center.

Quinn said his campaign waited until most of the ballots were counted since problems at some city polling places had caused long lines, with some waiting hours to vote.

“I think we should always respect those who waited, who persevered, to cast their ballot. Before calling any election it’s important to respect every single voter. That’s how I felt last night, and I feel the same way today,” he said, adding: “We respect the results. We respect what the voters did yesterday. I look forward to working with the new administration.” 

Quinn never mentioned Rauner by name, but vowed to cooperate in the transition in the time between now and when Rauner is sworn in next January. Quinn also pledged to work to raise the minimum wage, an issue that Quinn — and Democrats across the nation— made a mantra of the election season.

Rauner issued a statement thanking Quinn.

“I thank Governor Quinn for his many years of service to Illinois and appreciate his commitment to making this a smooth transition,” Rauner said. “I look forward to getting to work to make Illinois the most compassionate and competitive state in the nation.”

Rauner, the first Republican to win the governor’s mansion since 1998, skipped the typical post-election appearances to thank voters. He scheduled no public appearances the morning after he clinched the race following a brutal, expensive campaign.

Rauner’s camp said it was moving forward with preparing to govern, and named numerous top campaign staffers to his transition team.

Lt. Gov.-elect Evelyn Sanguinetti was named the chairwoman, political strategist Mike Zolnierowicz was named transition director, longtime Judy Baar Topinka aide Nancy Kimme was appointed transition adviser, campaign manager Chip Englander was named senior adviser, and Mike Schrimpf was made communication director.

Schrimpf said the transition committee would make public any contributions it receives and suggested some limits on donations would be imposed. When pressed for details, he said they would elaborate in the future.

As Rauner was setting the groundwork for a transition team, Quinn’s camp spent part of the day Wednesday going over what went wrong. 

With 99 percent of all the precincts counted, Quinn was down 167,000 votes statewide. 

Quinn was hardest hit by low voter turnout in suburban Cook County and in Chicago. That was a calculation that Democratic strategists hadn’t accounted for, according to two sources with knowledge of the campaign’s field operation.

Compared with 2010, voting was down 6 percent in Chicago and 7 percent in Cook County – a county that Quinn had to win big to prevail. Quinn needed to carry Cook by at least 500,000 votes as he did in 2010. Instead, he had just shy of 389,000 more than Rauner in Cook County.

“Basically, that’s the loss right there,” said Chicago political consultant Don Rose.

Rose noted that Rauner won by larger margins than expected in numerous Downstate counties, also hurting Quinn.

“I have to commend Rauner, he set up a ground game that I didn’t think could be set up [by a first-time candidate]. I can’t say Rauner’s ground game outmatched [House Speaker Mike] Madigan’s, but they were certainly able to stave off the [Democrats’] performance.” 

A robocall that created a debilitating mix-up in the city led to polls opening late in six precincts and voters turned away first thing in the morning – when voting is at its peak.

Same-day registration that was available at only certain polling places in the city had voters waiting in lines for hours to get registered.

When Rauner was on TV declaring victory, people were still waiting in lines in some city precincts hoping to vote.

Courtney Greve, a spokeswoman for Cook County Clerk David Orr, however, said the issues in the city didn’t spill over to suburban polling places.

In fact, she called same-day voter registration in suburban Cook County “the biggest success story” of election night.

“We were so thrilled with how Election Day registration turned out,” she said, with 3,600 suburban Cook voters registering and voting on election day in addition to another 4,400 “grace period” registrations during early voting. 

“We had lines too, but it was in select areas like the Evanston Civic Center,” she said. That’s where the county registered 430 people — many Northwestern University students — for same-day voting.