By Mark Guarino
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Illinois Republican businessman Bruce Rauner narrowly ousted Democratic Governor Pat Quinn on Tuesday, Reuters/IPSOS projected, in a vote for change in the state with the country's worst public pension crisis and lowest credit rating.
Rauner, 57, who spent millions of dollars of his own money in his first bid for public office, said he wanted to make Illinois friendlier to business by lowering income tax rates.
For many people attending the election night party for Rauner at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Chicago, the sagging Illinois economy was high on their mind.
"It's the Land of Lincoln and the Land of Lincoln is going down the tubes," said Neil Barrot of Schaumburg, a suburb of Chicago. "I don't think it's a beacon of America anymore. Policy and leadership attracts jobs and there's virtually no leadership here."
Opinion polls had forecast a close race. With some 90 percent of precincts reporting, Rauner had 50 percent of the vote and Quinn had 47 percent, with Libertarian candidate Chad Grimm taking 3 percent.
In an ugly campaign with attack ads on both sides, Rauner portrayed Quinn as a tax-and-spend liberal responsible for bringing the state into the economic doldrums.
Quinn attacked Rauner, a venture capitalist with nine homes, saying he was a heartless businessman who does not care about the issues affecting average people.
President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton and other big-name Democrats stumped for Quinn, but he was weakened by state budget woes and his approval rating is low at around 31 percent.
Glitches with ballots and dirty tricks slowed voting in some Illinois precincts on Tuesday. Officials said more than 2,000 election workers in Chicago did not show up because they received automated calls telling them they were not properly certified.
A few polling stations were still open after 9 p.m. after state officials ordered that everyone in line be allowed to vote.
Republicans have looked to Illinois as possibly the party's best shot at upsetting a Democratic incumbent governor. Illinois, Obama's home state, has not elected a Republican as governor since George Ryan, later sent to jail on corruption charges, left office in 2003.
Quinn's predecessor, Democrat Rod Blagojevich, is currently serving a federal prison sentence for corruption.
Quinn pushed through a pension reform package in 2013, which has been challenged in court by unions.
"We have a pension problem that is threatening to devalue every asset in the state. It's not a small issue," said Rauner supporter Brian Timpone of River Forest.
(Additional reporting by Diane Bartz; Writing by Mary Wisniewski and Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Peter Cooney and Eric Beech)