For the second time in as many years, Democrat Bill Cunningham appears to have defeated Republican challenger Barbara Bellar for a legislative seat downstate.
For the 18th District Senate seat, Cunningham took in 55,121 votes, compared to Bellar's 31,741 votes, with 183 out of 192 precincts reporting, according to unofficial results. He currently is the 35th District State Representative.
Cunningham thanked the voters, who he believes chose him because of his work in the 35th District.
"A number of them were able to look at my record in Spring over the last two years and were pleased with what I did in the House," he said.
Cunningham remained largely out of the media spotlight during the primary and general election. When asked by Patch, he failed to fill out a candidate questionnaire. Cunningham told Patch after Bellar's nomination in March that he would run on his record in the 35th District. He was unopposed in the primary.
By contrast, Bellar drew quite a bit of media attention in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 6 election. After handily defeating her Republican opponent Ricardo Fernandez in the primary battle, Bellar appeared in a video from August posted to YouTube in which she gave a one-sentence synopsis of President Obama's Affordable Care Act, which drew more than 3 million views.
Bellar later offered a more direct criticism of "Obamacare" during an October candidate forum.
"" she told a Palos Hills audience.
Late in the election season, newspaper columnist Phil Kadner raised questions about Bellar's time spent as a spent as a Benedictine nun and whether she ever took her vows. Bellar's rebuttal declared that her "life is an open book" and suggested Kadner had ulterior motives in writing the piece.
Bellar and Cunningham had previously faced off in the 2010 general election for the 35th District seat. Then, Cunningham won with 58.4 percent of the vote while Bellar managed only 41.6 percent of the electorate. Cunningham replaced Democrat Kevin Joyce, who announced his retirement from the Illinois General Assembly earlier in 2010.
The first order of business on Cunningham's agenda for the Senate is to reintroduce a proposed constitutional amendment he first brought up in the House. The amendment would introduce a form of merit-based selection of judges, Cunningham said. Judges running for office would need to be found qualified by a panel of legal experts before they could get onto the ballot.
"The way we pick judges, it’s highly politicized and results in less qualified individuals ending up on the bench," Cunningham said.
As for more drastic or pressing issues downstate — such as the much-needed pension overhaul — Cunningham said something could move on that before he is sworn in as a state senator.
“The current system we have right now is unsustainable and will require some sort of change," he said. That change would need to protect the rights of teachers and public servant who paid into the system but also ensure sustainability down the road.
Cunningham is originally from Chicago and earned a Bachelor's degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago. His 35th District offices are located in Beverly and Palos Hills, where he intends to keep his Senate offices.
See who won other Illinois Congressional races.
Visit our election guides for other updates.
- Orland Park
- Oak Lawn
- Beverly-Mt. Greenwood
Check back with Patch for updated results.