November 14, 2016

Panel discussion will focus on 2016 election results

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A panel discussion at Southern Illinois University Carbondale this week will analyze the 2016 fall elections. 

An “Election Autopsy,” sponsored by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute and the College of Liberal Arts, will look at the Nov. 8 election and the impact at the national, state and local levels. The event is at 5 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 16, in Shryock Auditorium. Admission is free and the public is invited. 

The panelists are Jak Tichenor, institute interim director; John Jackson, institute visiting professor; Tobin Grant, professor, Department of Political Science; and Todd Graham, SIU Carbondale debate director. 

Tichenor noted the battle for control of the Illinois statehouse in the election, in which both parties were locked in a bidding war that ran into the “tens of millions of dollars.” Illinois House Democrats lost their supermajority; Democrats in the state senate, meanwhile, lost two seats and still have a 37-member supermajority, he said. 

“It’s still a big loss for their party because they were favored to hold their own in a presidential year or even pick up some Republican seats,” Tichenor said. “Instead, they’ve lost ground and those seats are likely to stay Republican for quite a while.” 

The “Donald Trump headwinds came as the biggest surprise of the night” in this region, where veteran Democratic lawmakers, state Sen. Gary Forby of Benton and state Rep. John Bradley, lost re-election bids to first-time Republican challengers, Harrisburg Mayor Dale Fowler and Dave Severin, a long-time Benton grade school board member and businessman. 

“Both parties spent millions on the contests, but the Trump tidal wave that swept through most of downstate Illinois proved overwhelming when coupled with tons of campaign ads tying the incumbents” to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, Tichenor said. Neither Forby nor Bradley even won in their respective home counties, Franklin and Williamson. Overall, Trump won all but only two counties in the southern half of the state -- Jackson and St. Clair -- in the battle against Hillary Clinton. 

“Despite Tuesday’s Republican legislative victories, Gov. Bruce Rauner’s life might get more complicated when the new state comptroller takes office,” Tichenor said, noting that Rauner’s handpicked candidate, incumbent Leslie Munger, lost to Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza, a Madigan ally. 

Tichenor said Mendoza, a former state representative, will be in charge of the office that writes the checks for state programs and determines who gets paid first or has to wait in line.  Tichenor also noted that Rauner “lost one of his favorite rhetorical clubs he liked to use against the Democrats when he dared them to use their supermajority status to pass a tax increase on their own if he didn’t like his reform agenda.” 

“Now that the Democrats are four short of a supermajority, they will insist Republicans put some skin in the game next time there’s talk of raising taxes,” Tichenor said. 

For more information on the program, contact the institute at 618/453-4009 or visit