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Dixon loss a matter of party or job performance?

Challenger took all but three precincts

Published: Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012 1:15 a.m. CDT
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Lee County State's Attorney Henry Dixon

DIXON – Was the party affiliation of Lee County State’s Attorney Henry Dixon the main reason he lost his re-election bid Tuesday? Or was the election a referendum on Dixon’s performance?

On Tuesday, Dixon attorney Anna Sacco-Miller, 45, a Republican, trounced Democrat Dixon, 78, with 58.8 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results.

Lee County generally votes Republican, although it has had its share of Democrats over the years, including Dixon.

In Tuesday’s election, Republican Mitt Romney took 52.5 percent of the vote in Lee County – 6 percentage points fewer than Sacco-Miller. Obama got 45.2 percent, compared with Dixon’s 41.2 percent.

The presidential contest in Lee County wasn’t much different from 2008. In that year, McCain got 51.5 percent to Obama’s 45.5 percent.

Yet, in that election, Dixon got 50.6 percent, ousting then-incumbent Republican Paul Whitcombe, who got 49.4 percent.

In Tuesday’s election, when Romney did very well in Lee County, Sacco-Miller did even better. For instance, a precinct that votes at the Elks Lodge turned out to be both Romney’s and Sacco-Miller’s best precinct in Dixon. He received 63 percent, while she got 66 percent.

Dixon prevailed in just three of Lee County’s 49 precincts. Two were in the Democratic-leaning south side of Dixon, while the other was in Amboy. In the two Dixon precincts, the state’s attorney got 52 percent.

They were Obama’s first and third best ones in Dixon, where he got 65 percent and 62 percent.

Did recent events influence the outcome of the state’s attorney race?

In September, Dixon persuaded a grand jury to indict Rita Crundwell, Dixon’s former comptroller, who is accused of misappropriating $53 million of city money over more than two decades.

The FBI had charged her previously with one count of wire fraud. But many people wanted more charges brought against Crundwell. So Dixon stepped in, which was arguably a plus for his re-election.

But other issues may have hurt his bid. Last month, the attorney general issued an opinion that State’s Attorney Dixon improperly denied access to public records. It was the third time in 2 years that the attorney general had found Dixon on the wrong side of open government laws.

Last month, an Ogle County judge chastised Dixon for not showing up for hearings in which he was serving as a special prosecutor.

Dixon responded with a letter to the judge in which he said she was “mistaken both in your conclusion and in the way you broadcast your feelings, especially just three weeks before election day.”

After his loss Tuesday, Dixon acknowledged a “whooping.”

“Obviously, I got beat very badly,” he said in an interview. “I did not expect to be blown out of the water.”

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