Support for Gov. Quinn seemed strong among black voters in Chicago's Austin community on Tuesday, but that didn't translate into a win for the incumbent who was seeking his second full-term in office.
Quinn lost his re-election bid to Republican challenger Bruce Rauner, who dumped $27 million of his own money into his campaign war chest.
Rauner and his running mate Evelyn Sanguinetti garnered 1,742,403 or 50.6 percent of the vote versus Quinn's 1,585,332 or 46 percent of the votes.
An early Rauner supporter, Rev. Marshall Hatch said he was not surprised by the election results. Hatch said Quinn's low approval rating signaled a pending change. Quinn, he added, made a major misstep by selecting Paul Vallas as his running mate as opposed to former city treasurer Stephanie Neely. That move, Hatch said, showed Quinn took the black community for granted.
"I think Quinn left the Republicans a major opening," said Hatch, pastor of New Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church in West Garfield Park.
Hatch said he has known Rauner for years and believes he will be good for the state, including its black residents. Hatch called Rauner a "centrist Republican," a political view that could work well with blacks. He says with Democrats, there is never a serious conversation about blacks getting their fair share of state contracts.
"With Republicans you might be able to have a serious conversation on economic development ... and not just social services. So I think there are going to be some opportunities there," Hatch said.
Community activist Elce Redmond says just the opposite. He said Rauner will be "horrific" for African-Americans and the working class.
"He is going to cut every program that is going to benefit the poor and the working class," said Redmond, of the South Austin Coalition Community Council.
He was critical of Black ministers who supported Rauner. Redmond noted that those ministers will be rewarded individually, while "their parishioners suffer."
"It was obvious he bought the election itself," he said. "It really talks about the need for campaign finance reform. It really talks about the need to inform people about whom they're voting for. It's obvious that people did not vote for their interests."
Austin businessman Malcolm Crawford is more pragmatic about the governor's race. Crawford said change is always good, but he would not declare which way he voted on Election Day.
Crawford did say, however, that he hopes Rauner will leverage his "business acumen" to help communities create more opportunities for business and jobs. The Austin community, he noted needs an economic driver or it will always be at the bottom.
"Every time I talk to a young person, they say 'Mr. Crawford, I need a job.' They don't say, 'I need religion. I need more education. I need health care.' You create jobs by creating businesses," said Crawford of the Austin African-American Business Network. "A social program is good, but what can be done to drive [the] econom[y] longterm in the community?"
The governor's race was a contentious one, with millions spent on negative campaign ads from both camps. Voters had to wade through all the noise in making their decision before going to the polls yesterday.
Austin resident Bridget Hurd said the choice between Rauner and Quinn seemed like choosing between the lesser of two evils.
"It was an iffy decision, because Gov. Quinn has not done anything in my eyes for our community. But I really feel the person running against him won't do anything at all. So I took my chances and went with Quinn," Hurd said.
Latoya Jackson, who described herself as a "Democrat all the way," was also on the fence in the governor's race. The Malcolm X College student said she was familiar with Quinn, but noted that the governor needed to do more for black people.
"I voted for Pat Quinn. I really wasn't too sure, but I did just because I didn't want Rauner in," Jackson, 36, said.
Austin resident Rayfield Reed was undaunted by the midterm political mudslinging. The 55-year-old always votes straight Democratic. This election was no different.
"My mind was made up. I knew who I was going to vote for. It made no difference what Rauner said because I was going to vote for Quinn," Reed explained. "I thought Democrats were always for the Blacks. Republicans for rich folks."
Austin resident Catherine Jones voted for Quinn and agreed with his decision not to concede until all the votes were counted. Jones, a former election judge, said voters in her precinct didn't realize that the ballot came in two parts and had to redo their ballots.
"It was all rigged to me," she said.
According to the Chicago Board of Elections website, Quinn won the city. He garnered 77.20 percent, or 480,166, of the votes compared to Rauner's 20.81 percent (192,412). Rauner chipped away at Quinn's city numbers by getting upwards of 45 percent of the vote in some precincts in African-American dominated, West Side wards.
Hatch said the governor's race shows the power of the black vote.
"Once the numbers are crunched, we are going to find out just how influential the black vote is in state elections," Hatch said. "Nobody can win without the blacks, be it Democrats or Republicans."