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Rauner Beats Quinn; Bost Rides Red Wave To Capture Illinois Congressional Seat

U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, prepares for his guest appearance on St. Louis on the Air in 2014.
St. Louis Public Radio file photo
St. Louis Public Radio

State Rep. Mike Bost rode the national Republican wave to victory Tuesday night, knocking off incumbent U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart to represent parts of the Metro East in Congress. 

Bost’s victory capped off a buoyant night for Republicans nationally and in the Land of Lincoln, where Republican Bruce Rauner unseated incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat, won re-election.

Bost's victory was decisive. The Murphysboro Republican won with 55 percent of the vote to Enyart's 39 percent. Bost won easily in some of the 12th Congressional District’s more rural counties and managed to hold down Enyart’s numbers in traditionally Democratic St. Clair County.

With his victory, Bost will become the first Republican to represent the 12th District in generations. The district became more Republican after redistricting, although Enyart managed to defeat Republican Jason Plummer in 2012 by a fairly wide margin.

"I look forward to serving you," Bost said in his victory speech. "I’m humbled by the thought that I can even have that opportunity."  

National Democratic groups tried to portray Bost as an ill-tempered hot-head with a bad record as a state legislator. They pointed to Bost's angry speeches about state pension changes and conceal and carry legislation as evidence that he didn’t have the temperament to be in Congress.

But Enyart may have been hampered by the fact that he didn’t have as much name recognition as a typical incumbent congressman. He had become the Democratic nominee in 2012 only after the person who won the primary — former St. Clair regional superintendent Brad Harriman — dropped out the contest.

Independent, conservative groups also hit Enyart with a barrage of advertisements linking him to President Barack Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, an increasingly common tactic in the last couple of election cycles.

In his concession speech, Enyart lamented how expensive the contest for the 12th District was this year. He said that the roughly $15 million spent by outside groups could have been better spent elsewhere. 

Credit Tim Lloyd, St. Louis Public Radio
U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart, D-Belleville, make his concession speech.

"When I think about the children who need an education and the people who are struggling to stay in their homes, to waste that kind of money on political campaign truly, truly is obscene," Enyart said.
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorsville, looked to be defeating former Madison County Judge Ann Callis easily in the 13th congressional race, which also takes in parts of the Metro East.

That contest was widely expected to be more competitive, especially because Davis — like Enyart — had gotten into his 2012 race late and nearly lost to perennial Democratic candidate Dan Gill. But national Democratic groups— such as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — effectively abandoned Callis in October, a sign the race was tilting Davis’ way.

Republicans also prevailed in Illinois 10th District, where former GOP U.S. Rep. Bob Dold unseated Democratic U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider. And two Democratic incumbents — U.S. Reps. Cherri Bustos and Bill Foster — fended off stiff GOP challenges.

But the biggest news of the night may have been Rauner's win over Quinn. Rauner — a businessman from Chicago — will become the first GOP governor in the Land of Lincoln since 2002.

The $100 million governor's race featured some particularly hard-hitting ads. Quinn lambasted Rauner's business dealings, while Rauner linked Quinn to unpopular Democratic political figures — such as incarcerated former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Polls showed a tight race up until Election Day.

Quinn supported an increase in the minimum wage while Rauner advocated tax cuts, but the campaign was short on policy details. As of 2 a.m., he had still not conceded the race to Rauner -- even though the Republican was up by more than five percentage points.

"The campaign was mostly bereft of details about how either candidate would lead the state going forward, with the focus instead on vilification," reported the Chicago Tribune. "Democrats tapped into a class warfare theme to paint Rauner as rich and out of touch with average people, while Republicans sought to paint Quinn as failing to clean up a corrupt government following the impeachment of his now-imprisoned predecessor, Rod Blagojevich.

Durbin prevails in a GOP wave

Meanwhile, Durbin, D-Illinois, decisively dispatched Republican state Sen. Jim Oberweis to win a fourth term in the U.S. Senate. As of 10 p.m., Durbin had about 56 percent of the vote — compared to Oberweis’ 39.7 percent. 

Credit Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio
Sen. Dick Durbin won another term in the U.S. Senate.

Very few national publications that track congressional races considered Durbin — who currently serves as Senate Majority Whip — particularly vulnerable. He’s rarely faced strong Republican opponents since he won his first U.S. Senate election in 1996.

But Durbin will likely no longer be in the majority when the new Congress is sworn in next January. That’s because Republicans won seats in Montana, South Dakota, West Virginia, Colorado,  North Carolina, Arkansas and Iowa, while holding off challenges in Kentucky, Kansas and Georgia.

It’s also possible the GOP may pick up another seat in Louisiana, where U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy and U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu are headed for a December runoff. And the party may also pick up a seat in Alaska, although the final tally of that contest may not be known for several days.

The Republican takeover means that U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt — a Missouri Republican and a member of Senate leadership — may become more influential over the next couple of years. It could also mean a downgrade in status for U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, who’s served in the Democratic majority since she entered Congress back in 2007.

Mundane in Missouri

As expected, all of Missouri’s incumbent members of Congress won re-election:

  • In the St. Louis-based 1st Congressional District, U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay, D-University City, easily defeated Republican challenger Daniel Elder. But he may face a competitive primary in 2016, especially if state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, jumps into the race.
  • U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, beat Democratic nominee Arthur Lieber in the contest for Missouri’s 2nd Congressional District. While that district became more Democratic after redistricting, groups such as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee stayed out — suggesting it was not a likely pickup opportunity.
  • U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth, won his fourth term to the U.S. House, knocking off Democratic nominee Courtney Denton. Some Republicans are touting Luetkemeyer as a possible statewide candidate in two years, which may prompt scores of Republicans to run for his GOP-leaning seat.
Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.
Tim Lloyd was a founding host of We Live Here from 2015 to 2018 and was the Senior Producer of On Demand and Content Partnerships until Spring of 2020.