CHICAGO – Voters in suburban Chicago bid farewell to the matriarch of the Illinois Senate, ending her more than 30-year career in the Legislature in favor of a candidate who party leaders believe will keep the seat on the GOP side.
In other state Legislature races, two short-term lawmakers were knocked off while several other veterans easily won their nominations.
The 87-year-old Geo-Karis did not return a call Tuesday night seeking comment. A spokeswoman for Senate Republican Leader Frank Watson praised Geo-Karis' service and said Simpson would be a good candidate in the November election.
"Senator Geo-Karis has obviously contributed a great deal throughout her career, but the voters in her district have decided it's time for a change," Watson spokeswoman Patty Schuh said. "Geo was an old soldier, and I think this was the way she wanted to go out."
Simpson, a former House member and local township supervisor, ran for the Senate seat after getting signals last year that Geo-Karis would retire.
Geo-Karis battled health problems and came off a short stay in the hospital just before the primary. Losing her seat might be just the start of a shake-up for Senate Republicans, who could see anywhere from five to a dozen new faces next January thanks to members running for other offices or retiring.
Geo-Karis' race was one of several in which local issues dominated legislative races.
Democratic Rep. Michelle Chavez of Cicero lost her battle against two opponents, two years after beating a Republican lawmaker despite running under the political radar screen. With 86 percent of the votes counted in unofficial totals, Lisa Hernandez had 58 percent to Chavez's 26 percent.
Republican Rep. Roger Jenisch was upended by challenger Franco Coladipietro 53 percent to 47 percent with 100 percent of the votes counted in unofficial returns.
LaShawn Ford was declared the winner over Democrat Rep. Calvin Giles with a 57 to 43 percent edge and 81 percent of precincts reporting.
Republican Rep. Randy Ramey avoided the same fate, getting 39.2 percent to Pamela Fenner's 36.3 percent in unofficial returns.
And several lawmakers easily won battles rooted in Chicago-area Democratic political rivalries, including Sens. Tony Munoz and Martin Sandoval and Reps. Karen Yarbrough and David Miller.