Quigley takes 5th District seat

April 8, 2009 Democrat Mike Quigley is the winner of the 5th Congressional District seat vacated by Rahm Emanuel when he became White House chief of staff. Quigley easily defeated Republican Rosanna Pulido and Green Party candidate Matt Reichel.

The 5th Congressional District is the Democratic stronghold stretching from Chicago's North Side lakefront, through the northwest neighborhoods and neighboring suburbs.

The 50-year-old Cook County commissioner won by a huge margin with his Republican opponent finishing a distant second.

With more than 40,000 registered voters going to the polls, voter turnout was less than during the primary last month.

Speaking with ABC7 Wednesday morning, Quigley said he plans to head to Washington D.C. Wednesday after briefly setting up his district office here Wednesday morning.

Known as a reformer locally, Quigley said the first thing he'll do when he gets to work on the Hill is focus on the economy.

"Everyone there tells me regardless of what anyone's issue is, the issue is the economy," he said. "That will be the case for quite a while, unfortunately. But we are mindful that transparency, accountability and reform issues are extraordinarily important in Illinois and Washington, and we're going to continue that agenda as well."

As an outgoing member of the Cook County board of commissioners, Quigley said the choice of three county townships voting Tuesday to secede from the county is indicative of how upset the voters are with the state of politics in the region.

"I understand that completely," Quigley said. "I would only respectfully note that the turnout in the 2006 election, which could have changed a lot of that, was only about 26 percent. So I just would encourage the voters, if they are interested in change, to continue their interests, but there is a primary election in February 2010 where they could air their unhappiness."

Quigley's huge victory margin is tempered by the unofficial record low turnout in the special election. Only about one-eighth of the 320,000 registered voters in the district cast ballots, a reality not lost on Pulido.

"When voter turnout is so low, people don't have the right to complain if they don't like the government they have. So they just have to keep that in the forefront," said Pulido.

The Chicago Board of Elections spent more than $3 million to conduct the special primary and general elections to replace Emmanuel.

"For the primary election, we spent almost $30 a vote. That number's going to climb as the vote decreases in this election," said Langdon Neal, Chicago Board of Elections chairman.

Despite the low turnout in both elections, Quigley insisted his victory was a mandate. And the self-described "reformer" was not sold on the idea that the special election system needs to be changed.

"I think first we should add more special elections and while we do that we need to have find a way to make them work where they're not so costly and we get maximum voter participation," said Quigley.

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