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IL Primaries: Giannoulias v. Kirk, Both Gubernatorial Races Too Close to Call

At midnight EST, the big news from Illinois is that the two favorites to win their respective nominations for race to fill the US Senate seat formerly held by President Obama have won, but both primary contests for the IL governor’s race are squeakers too close to call.

State treasurer Alexi Giannoulias bested four other contenders to win the Democratic nomination for Senate, with former Chicago inspector general David Hoffman finishing second by about five points, 39 percent to 34 percent, with 96 percent of precincts reported. On the Republican side, Congressman Mark Kirk captured 57 percent of the vote, trouncing his five opponents, none of whom got more than 20 percent.

The gubernatorial primaries are more interesting, as the margins in both races are less than 1 percent as of this writing. State senator Bill Brady has a slim lead of a little more than 1,000 votes over state senate colleague Kirk Dillard in the Republican contest; meanwhile, Democrat Pat Quinn, who succeeded scandal-plagued Rod Blagojevich one year ago this week, is hanging on for dear life against Comptroller Dan Hynes.

Short of winning Ted Kennedy’s former seat (check), winning the president’s former Senate seat carries significant symbolic value to Republicans. As Nate wrote recently, Giannoulias is expected to be a solid favorite over Kirk–but we’ve heard that story before. The question now is whether the National Republican Senatorial Committee and Republican donors around the country will risk committing resources to Illinois or target more promising races.