"The people of Illinois now see the arrogance of a one-party state, and this election will show that we will not surrender to their dangerous cynicism of low expectations because we are Americans and we can do anything," Kirk told supporters Tuesday night.
With 93 percent of precincts reporting, Giannoulias had 320,690 votes, or 39 percent. Former Chicago inspector general David Hoffman followed with 34 percent of the vote.
Giannoulias led the polls throughout the campaign and gave his acceptance speech at 10:15 p.m. He was quick to go after Kirk.
"Come November, congressman, your days as a Washington insider are over," Giannoulias said.
Republicans are eager to make in-roads in November, while the Democrats are hoping to elect a candidate that will help retain the seat, which was appointed to Roland Burris by former governor Rod Blagojevich, and their majority in the Senate. Illinois is being even more closely watched after an upset win by the GOP in Massachusetts that cost Democrats the late Sen. Edward Kennedy's seat.
Candidates encourage voter turnout Election Day
For Hoffman, Giannoulias and Jackson, the biggest competition Tuesday was low voter turnout. All three Democratic candidates for Senate were shaking hands or working the phones to urge people to vote.
"Our job is to keep reaching out to focus on where we know our votes are up to the last minute," said Jackson, who solicited the help of her young nephews.
"It's hard to say no to a cute little kid on the phone, right?" said Jackson.
As the only female and African American in the race, Jackson hopes the feud between the two men over Giannoulias's family bank will send voters her way. But Hoffman believes his attacks on the bank and his record as an outsider gives him momentum.
"People are sick and tired of the insider political system here. That message is resonating. The fact that every newspaper in Illinois endorsed me in the last couple of weeks, that's resonating. We are doing well. We got the momentum," said Hoffman.
While media polls have shown Giannoulias consistently in the lead, the Hoffman campaign insists the race is much tighter than expected.
"I think candidates are concerned and don't necessarily sleep the night before. It is not a matter of being worried or concerned for the candidates, because even the ones up 20 points are concerned," said Giannoulias.
Physician Robert Marshall is also on the Democratic ballot in the Senate race.
Kirk already focusing on November
One candidate who was not concerned was Kirk. He was running against Andy Martin, former judge Don Lowery, historian Kathleen Thomas, former Harvey alderman John Arrington and real estate developer Patrick Hughes. Kirk says he's already planning and thinking November.
"So far, Giannoulias has had all the support and backing. He has been substantially ahead of the polls of all of the candidates that we expected to run against," said Kirk.
Kirk is already campaigning as the anti-corruption candidate and will try to tie Giannoulias to insider Illinois corrupt politics. Hoffman insisted the corruption issue would be off the table if he were the candidate. Giannoulias says polls show he is the candidate to beat Kirk.