Harmon re-elected Senate president; contested race for House speaker

By Peter Hancock 
Capitol News Illinois


State Sen. Don Harmon

SPRINGFIELD – Republicans made a net gain of one seat in the Illinois House while losing one in the state Senate, according to certified official results from the Nov. 3 general election.

The deadline for the Illinois State Board of Elections to complete its statewide canvass of the election was Friday, Dec. 4.

Just under 6.1 million ballots were cast in the election for a turnout rate of 72.92 percent, which was about average for recent presidential elections.

In state House races, GOP candidates won four seats that had previously been held by Democrats, but also lost three seats to Democratic challengers.

The seats they gained included the 45th District, where Seth Lewis defeated Rep. Diane Pappas, 53-47 percent; the 51st District, where Chris Bos edged out Rep. Mary Edly-Allen, 51-49 percent; the 111th District, where Amy Elik defeated Rep. Monica Bristow, 54-46 percent; and the 116th District, where David Friess defeated Rep. Nathan Reitz, 65-35 percent.

They lost seats in the suburbs, where Democrat Dave Vella unseated Rep. John Cabello in the 68th district by 239 votes; Janet Yang Rohr unseated Rep. Grant Wehrli in the 41st district by a vote of 52-48 percent; and Suzanne Ness unseated Allen Skillicorn in the 66th district, also by a vote of 52-48 percent.

In the Senate, Democrat Karina Villa edged out Republican Jeanette ward, 51-49 percent, in a race to fill a seat vacated by Republican Sen. Jim Oberweis, who stepped down this year to run for Congress.

State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit

Oberweis narrowly lost that congressional race, 51-49 percent, to incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, although Oberweis has said he will ask for what’s known as a “discovery” recount.

“The votes in this race have been counted and Mr. Oberweis lost,” Underwood’s campaign spokeswoman said in a statement on Dec. 4. “As he has acknowledged, a discovery recount cannot change the outcome of this election. Congresswoman Underwood is in Washington focused on the job she has been elected to do.”

The results mean Democrats will still control the House with a 73-45 majority, which is still above the three-fifths supermajority needed to override a veto or pass a constitutional amendment. They will control the Senate by a 41-19 margin, which is also a supermajority.

Late Thursday, Democrats announced that Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, had been reelected to a full term as president of the Senate. Harmon was first elected to that job in January to fill out the remainder of the two-year leadership term that was vacated when former President John Cullerton retired at the end of the 2019 session.

“I am honored and humbled to have the support of my colleagues to serve as president of the Illinois Senate,” Harmon said in a statement. “We have a fantastically talented collection of Senate Democrats who are ready to make their mark, solve problems and lead Illinois through an upcoming year that will be filled with both challenges and accomplishments.”

House Speaker Michael Madigan

Other Senate leadership posts will be chosen after the new General Assembly is sworn into office in January.

On the House side, however, the contest for speaker could become a hotly-contested battle. Current Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, has been embroiled in scandal since being implicated in July in a bribery scheme involving utility giant Commonwealth Edison.

Although he has not been charged with a crime and has denied wrongdoing, at least 19 Democrats in the House have publicly stated they will not vote to reelect him as speaker, meaning he does not currently have the 60 votes needed to win the election. Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego, is the only other person to announce that she will seek the position.

Both Madigan and Kifowit were expected to speak at a virtual meeting of the House Black Caucus on Dec. 5, according to a report in the Chicago Tribune. That caucus is considered critical to anyone’s chances of winning the speaker’s race.

Meanwhile in the presidential race for Illinois, Democrats Joseph R. Biden and Kamala Harris defeated President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence by just over 1 million votes, 56-41 percent, according to the final tally, giving Biden and Harris Illinois’ 20 electoral votes.

The state’s electors are scheduled to meet in Springfield at 10 a.m. Monday, Dec. 14, to formally cast their ballots.