With nearly 80 of 85 precincts reporting, incumbent state Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch (7th) has won his bid for reelection by a landslide against challenger Chris Harris. Welch has garnered nearly 65 percent of the vote against Harris, a former Forest Park commissioner, who has taken in roughly 35 percent of the vote in the March 15 Democratic primary election. Around 39 percent of registered voters in the 7th District, which covers most of Forest Park, have cast ballots.
Welch was first elected to office in 2012 after narrowly defeating Rory Hoskins, another Forest Park Commissioner.
In an often bitter race marked by complaints of negative campaigning lobbed from each side at the other, both candidates ran as antidotes to Springfield’s current state of gridlock. Illinois hasn’t had a budget in more than eight months — a fact that Welch laid at the feet of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.
During a candidates’ forum earlier this month, Welch said that the budget gridlock would’ve been resolved by now if decision-making were left to the state’s rank and file legislators on both sides of the aisle. He also noted that a successful bid for re-election would pave the way to legislative seniority on various committees, which would work to his constituents’ advantage.
Harris, however, ran on a platform that was largely anti-Madigan and he touted his independency as an asset to what he considered Madigan’s iron-grip approach to delivering consensus.
The campaign was also marked by a significant fundraising advantage. During interviews conducted last month, Welch estimated that, by the campaign’s end, he’d have spent upwards of $200,000. Harris — who received what he said was largely unwanted support from a Rauner-related conservative Super PAC in the form of supportive “newspapers” bashing Welch and supporting his candidacy — estimated that he planned to spend around $25,000.
“My whole campaign was come-from-behind,” Harris said, during an interview conducted with about half the precincts reported. “When someone is taking that kind of money, you start from behind the eight ball and you’re digging out from then on.”
Welch couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.