CHICAGO (AP) — Even as election results made it clear Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn had avoided the fate of Democratic governors nationwide by winning his extremely close election bid, Republican Bill Brady's campaign insisted he still was looking for votes.
Quinn assured voters that Brady's refusal to concede the state's closest governor's race in decades wouldn't keep him from the business of his first full term in office — tackling one of the nation's worst budget problems and a deficit that could top $15 billion.
"I have work to do," he said Thursday, the same day the state Senate put off voting on a borrowing plan Quinn wants to pay the state's underfunded pension system. "I know the people of Illinois want to make sure we get our economy back on stride. That's what I'm focused on night and day."
But Brady wasn't giving up, even as an Associated Press analysis of uncounted votes from absentee and other ballots showed the state senator from Bloomington won't be able to overcome the more than 19,400-vote lead Quinn held with all precincts reporting.
"There's a number of votes that have yet to be counted — military, absentee and others," Brady told reporters Thursday in the state capital of Springfield. "We're going to deal with all the data that's there, and we'll then deal with the decision-making process as we gather data."
State officials have until Dec. 3 to certify all results.
Spokeswoman Patty Schuh said Brady would press ahead gathering information about uncounted absentee and provisional ballots. But she acknowledged the campaign did not have a specific scenario that would produce a victory.
Quinn, meanwhile, moved on. The former lieutenant governor who inherited the executive spot nearly two years ago when lawmakers ousted former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, thanked voters at a Chicago deli.
"I think the people of Illinois know I won the election," said Quinn, who held on even as many other Democrat governors were voted out and Republicans in Illinois claimed the Senate seat once held by President Barack Obama, along with a majority of the state's congressional delegation.
Close elections aren't new for Brady. He squeaked out a Republican primary win in February by fewer than 200 votes and was not officially declared the winner until more than a month later. Tuesday's election was the closest governor's contest since 1982, when incumbent Republican Jim Thompson defeated Democrat Adlai E. Stevenson by 5,074 votes.
Unofficial results compiled by AP showed Brady trailing Quinn by a margin of about half a percentage point in an election where 3.6 million ballots were cast. That's a tiny difference, but there was no way Brady could make it up, the AP found.
Thousands of provisional ballots were cast in Tuesday's election, but experts say few of those will end up being declared valid. And if they are, most come from Cook County, a Quinn stronghold.
There also are tens of thousands of absentee ballots sent to voters that haven't been returned, as well as some that have been returned but not yet counted. Experts say absentee ballots that haven't been sent in yet probably never will be.
"When you get a few days out from the election, most of them don't come back," said Ken Menzel, an attorney with the State Board of Elections.
Even if all the absentee ballots wound up being counted, they would not help Brady close the gap if they followed local voting trends.
Republicans have said privately that Brady had an uphill battle when he didn't come out ahead on Election Day. Republican state Sen. Kirk Dillard, who finished second to Brady in the primary, called the 19,000-vote split a "steep hurdle."
Exit polls showed Quinn received overwhelming support in the city of Chicago and had solid support among those from households with less than $100,000 income, labor union households and those with a family member who had lost a job in the last two years.
Quinn campaigned on a politically risky proposal to raise the state income tax by one-third as Illinois struggles with its budget deficit. Brady flatly rejected raising taxes.
Derek Rank, 38, of Chicago, said he voted for Quinn because he was forthcoming about the state's fiscal mess, even if that meant higher taxes.
"He was honest about actually having to increase taxes," said Rank, an information technology expert. "If you're saying you can eliminate the hole we're in without raising taxes, you're lying."
Associated Press writers John O'Connor in Springfield and Carla K. Johnson and Christopher Wills in Chicago contributed to this report.
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