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Rauner declares victory — Quinn refuses to concede defeat

Multimillionaire Republican Bruce Rauner proclaimed victory and “a new direction” as Illinois’ next governor Tuesday night, even as Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn refused to concede defeat.

“This is a historic time in Illinois,” Rauner told cheering supporters. “The voters have spoken. The voters have asked for divided government for the first time in many years.”

But a defiant Quinn declared, “I don’t believe in throwing in the towel” with votes uncounted.

“We will never, ever yield to a result until all the votes are in,” Quinn said, suggesting a complete count could take days

It was a fitting end to an Election Night that capped an often-vicious contest that saw unprecedented amounts of money spent and much vitriol thrown around.

Speaking just minutes after Quinn, Rauner made no mention of the governor’s defiance.  Instead he focused on voters choosing a “divided government” — a Republican in the governor’s mansion and both Illinois houses controlled by Democrats.

“I am honored, I am humbled to go to work for you and every family in this great state,” Rauner told a robust crowd packed into the ballroom at the Hilton Towers.  

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Rauner added that he had called Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and Illinois Senate President John Cullerton.

A Madigan spokesman, however, said he was “not aware of any call.”

Rauner did not mention whether he had attempted to call Quinn.

With 99 percent of the precincts tallied, Rauner took 51 percent of the total vote, while Quinn had 46 percent.

The results came after polls showed the two locked in a dead heat for weeks.

Rauner, a newcomer to the political scene, had pumped $27 million of his own personal fortune into the race. A year ago — before he had even won the Republican primary — Rauner began running ads with his focus on attacking Quinn.

Democrats did what they could to drive voter turnout, including making sure various questions appeared on the ballot, including a non-binding referendum that asked whether the state’s minimum wage should be raised to $10 an hour.

Before Rauner declared victory, the Associated Press, NBC News and other news agencies projected him the winner.

Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson insisted that “thousands, if not hundreds of thousands,” of ballots hadn’t been counted yet.  

It’s true that numerous precincts were still not counted due in part to Election Day snafus in different parts of the state. However, analysts were pointing to Rauner’s lead as seemingly too large a margin for Quinn to overcome.

Rauner’s team was showing confidence as late returns arrived.

“We’re kicking ass and taking names,” said campaign manager Chip Englander. ”Better to be us than them. Every corner of Illinois responded to Bruce. We’re seeing that tonight.”

He wouldn’t offer details but he said “we’ve outperformed our internal targets, and it looks good.”

A new law allowing same-day voter registration caused issues in Lake County, leading to polls remaining open until 9 p.m. rather than 7 p.m.

Most pronounced, however, were issues in Chicago, where Democratic votes are the richest. Officials with the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners estimated that thousands of election judges did not show up after they received false information through bogus robo-calls. As a result, six precincts remained open later and vote counts out of the city were delayed.

Still, turnout appeared healthy elsewhere in the state, and Republicans pointed to Rauner’s numbers running higher than state Sen. Bill Brady did in 2010 against Quinn. Rauner also was on track to take 20 percent to 21 percent of the city vote. In 2010, Brady lost against Quinn by just 32,000 votes.

Englander said some 10,000 volunteers were in the field for the last push. “It shows people are excited,” he said. “Folks know it’s going to be a close race, but the energy is on the side of change, which helps us.”

Anderson was similarly optimistic early in the evening.

“We always knew it was going to be close. We’re up against a billionaire who could spare no expense trying to buy this election. He’s got double the amount of money as we did. He gave himself as much money as we raised. That all being said, we’re in a good position. We always expected it was going to be close.”

Anderson took comfort in the some 800,000 people who cast their ballots early in Illinois. 

“About a quarter of the 2010 electorate voted early in Illinois in this

election,” Anderson said. “We think that’s encouraging for us and every vote must be counted but we feel good about our position and we got to make sure we close this out strong.”

The campaigns had already broken spending records — at about $100 million collectively — with $65 million of that from Rauner’s campaign.

The bulk of Quinn’s and Rauner’s campaign spending went toward a steady stream of negative political ads that aired on a seemingly endless loop.

Rauner’s candidacy to “shake up Springfield” seemed to gain traction throughout the state. However, Rauner’s rhetoric early on that he would take on “government union bosses” rattled union members, who have been among the most influential of groups working to get people to the polls. Quinn also benefitted from large-scale union financial contributions.

Ron Gidwitz, a Republican co-chair on Bruce Rauner’s campaign, said he had confidence in the party’s field operation. 

“It’s all about turnout. We have the best turnout program I’ve seen since 1968. Therefore, it’s now in the hands of the voters,” Gidwitz said. ”We’ve done everything we can do. We’ve got a very compelling candidate. We’ve had an awesome media campaign, and we’ve got a turnout campaign that’s better than anything I’ve seen in the last 40 years.”