Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) had a rough autumn. A top fundraiser was charged with shaking down companies that wanted state business, and reports surfaced that one of Blagojevich's daughters received a $1,500 gift from a friend of the governor whose wife got a state job. Still, Judy Baar Topinka (R) had disapproval ratings even higher than Blagojevich's, and she could muster only 40 percent of the vote, compared with the incumbent's 50 percent.
The campaign centered on allegations of corruption, with Topinka urging voters to blame Blagojevich for federal investigations of state government hiring practices. Blagojevich's campaign said Topinka couldn't be trusted because she worked as treasurer under former governor George Ryan, who was convicted in April on public corruption charges.
Democrat Tammy Duckworth -- a former Army Black Hawk helicopter pilot who lost both her legs in Iraq -- was defeated by state Sen. Peter Roskam for the suburban 6th District seat of retiring Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R). Duckworth had no political experience, but she did have a compelling story that almost carried her to victory in a traditionally conservative district. Roskam is known as a charming social conservative in a very conservative district.
The downstate district seat held by retiring Rep. Lane Evans (D) went to Evans's longtime aide, Phil Hare, who handily beat Republican Andrea Zinga.
Freshman Rep. Melissa L. Bean (D) easily defeated investment banker David McSweeney in the 8th District. But businessman Daniel Seals could not unseat Mark S. Kirk (R) in the 10th.
Democrats picked up three congressional seats in what is usually considered a Republican state. They also gained a new majority in the state House of Representatives.
Six-term Rep. John N. Hostettler (R) lost to Vanderburgh County Sheriff Brad Ellsworth (D) in the southern 8th District, called the Bloody Eighth because of its history of bitter partisan fighting. Hostettler has been an old-fashioned campaigner, refusing to pay consultants or do substantial fund-raising.
Two-term Rep. Chris Chocola (R) lost his 2nd District seat to Joe Donnelly, a lawyer and businessman, in a race that, like so many others, turned on voter dissatisfaction over the war and President Bush's low approval ratings. In the 9th District, former representative Baron Hill (D) defeated Rep. Michael E. Sodrel by four percentage points, or about 9,600 votes . Two years ago, Sodrel defeated Hill by 1,500 votes.
Rep. Mark Edward Souder (R) easily defended his seat against Thomas Hayhurst in the state's 3rd District.
The losses in his home state and across the country prompted veteran Indiana Rep. Mike Pence (R) to concede that Election Day 2006 was "a turning point in American political history. Twenty-five years after the Reagan administration came to Washington with a conservative agenda of limited government, the American people chose a different course."
Secretary of State Chet Culver (D) defeated Rep. Jim Nussle (R) in what was initially seen as a potentially close race to replace the popular governor, Tom Vilsack, who is likely to seek the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. Culver won by a convincing 100,000 votes. Nussle, chairman of the House Budget Committee, suffered from public unhappiness over the performance of the Republican Congress and President Bush.
Culver's successful campaign was the highlight of a remarkable political turnaround for Democrats in Iowa. They now hold the governorship as well as majorities in both legislative houses for the first time in four decades.