Illinois treasurer race still up in the air

Supporters of Tom Cross watch as Republican numbers rise during election night.
Supporters of Tom Cross watch as Republican numbers rise during election night.

By Julie Woon

More than 12 hours after the polls closed Tuesday evening, the Illinois treasurer’s race was still without a winner. With a difference of less than 1 percent of the vote separating Illinois Rep. Tom Cross (R-Oswego) and state Sen. Michael Frerichs (D-Champaign), the Illinois State Board of Elections is waiting for the final ballots to be counted and absentee votes to be tallied up.

It’s not rare for races to come down to the wire, but there are some special circumstances that have affected the treasurer’s election, said Dick Simpson, a professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “What makes it unique is that the Republicans had a really good night,” said Simpson.

Simpson said Tom Cross is not particularly popular Because of some votes he has cast in the legislature. For instance, last year, Cross voted in favor of marriage equality alienating some of his conservative followers.

The lack of an incumbent candidate also may be a contributing factor in the closeness of the election. Dan Rutherford, the current treasurer, had planned to run for Illinois governor until a staff member accused him of sexual harassment in the spring. Rutherford dropped out of the race and chose not to run for another term as treasurer.

The treasurer’s race has featured its fair share of accusations and jabs from both candidates. Frerichs accused Cross of being a “Springfield insider” while Cross said Frerichs mismanaged his position as Champaign County auditor. But both agreed that they would clean up the mess left by Rutherford in the treasurer’s office after he was criticized for misusing state funds to travel to events close to political fundraisers in Illinois.

While both candidates nervously await the decision, Frerichs is hoping to take the position away from the GOP, which has held the office for the majority of the past 20 years. Meanwhile, Cross’ political future hangs in the balance. After stepping down from his position as house Republican leader to run in the election, Cross would be left without any political positions if he loses.