Tight race in Illinois GOP ticket

The license plates say “Land of Lincoln” and the top of the ticket looks very Republican indeed this year. Democrats have not elected a governor since 1972 and their losing streak is likely to continue. Republicans picked Secretary of State George Ryan, a party wheel horse, to succeed retiring Gov. Jim Edgar.

The winner of the tough Democratic primary was labor-backed Downstate Rep. Glenn Poshard. Poshard’s opposition to abortion and some gun control measures made him a dubious candidate in the Chicago area, where he was little known, and Ryan has moved deftly in the fashion of Edgar and his predecessor, Republican Jim Thompson, to become the kind of moderate Republican suburban voters prefer.

Polls show the race has tightened in the last two weeks, but Poshard still has a way to go.

Democratic Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun heads everyone’s list of endangered incumbents, largely because her personal behavior _ trips to Nigeria, repeated questions about finances _ has alienated independent voters who made her the first African American woman elected to the Senate six years ago. Her GOP challenger, state Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, a conservative who defeated Edgar’s choice in the primary, has reached deep into his own pockets to pay for a TV campaign fending off Democratic criticism of his anti-abortion, anti-gun control stands and keeping the focus on the incumbent. Criticized for avoiding the press and for scant personal campaigning, Fitzgerald has seen his margin narrow but remains a clear favorite.

In the banner House race, targeted by interest groups on both sides, Democratic Rep. Lane Evans is in a rematch against Republican former TV anchorman Mark Baker, the man he defeated by 11,000 votes last time. Illinois has ended party-lever voting this year for the first time, so they’re on their own. Evans rates the slightest edge.

The open Poshard seat is likely to remain Democratic, with Democratic state Rep. Dave Phelps, a gospel singer in Poshard’s conservative mode, favored over Republican Brent Winters, back for a third try after losing twice by landslide margins to Poshard. Democratic Rep. Jerry F. Costello, named as an unindicted co-conspirator when a former business partner was convicted of fraud, appears to be fending off the challenge of Republican Bill Price, an orthopedic surgeon whose father was the longtime Democratic congressman from this Democratic district. Chicago Rep. Sidney R. Yates, D-Ill., is leaving after 34 years, to be replaced by Democratic state Rep. Jan Schakowsky. Retiring seven-term GOP Rep. Harris W. Fawell will see his chosen successor, Republican state Rep. Judy Biggert, elected to the suburban seat.