Reporting from Chicago — The Democratic gubernatorial primary in Illinois is a tossup between Gov. Pat Quinn and Comptroller Dan Hynes as controversy over an inmate early-release program and an imploding state budget has cut into Quinn's once-sizable advantage, a Chicago Tribune/WGN-TV poll has found.
On the Republican side, three candidates also are in a close battle ahead of the Feb. 2 primary. Former state GOP Chairman Andy McKenna, former Illinois Atty. Gen. Jim Ryan and state Sen. Kirk Dillard lead the field, but none had reached 20%, according to the new poll.
The poll results show that with the early primary election approaching, candidates who placed a premium on extensive TV advertising are seeing dividends.
Each of the surveys, conducted Jan. 16-20, also indicate that the results could depend on last-minute voter appeals through TV, radio and campaign get-out-the-vote efforts.
Among Democrats, Quinn's more than 2-to-1 lead over Hynes in a Tribune survey six weeks ago has evaporated amid concerns about the unelected incumbent's ability to handle the job.
The former lieutenant governor assumed the state's highest elected office last January after Rod R. Blagojevich was impeached and ousted as governor after his arrest on federal corruption charges.
The new poll of 601 likely Democratic voters showed Quinn with 44% and Hynes with 40%, within the survey's 4-percentage-point error margin. Thirteen percent of the voters were undecided.
Hynes has attacked Quinn in TV ads for releasing inmates within days after their arrival at state prisons to save money. Dozens of those released early are back in prison.