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Illinois voters cast ballots in nation's first primary

CHICAGO - Illinois voters groused their way to the polls yesterday in the nation's first primary of the year, to determine which Democrat will defend both the governor's office and a U.S. Senate seat against Republicans eyeing the party's infighting and scandals.

Voters in both parties' primaries said they were frustrated by corruption, taxes and the state's budget woes.

"I'm tired of what's going on, from the top to the bottom," said Richard Saunders, 83, who cast a Republican ballot in the southwestern Illinois city of Troy. "I hope we can do something with our one little vote."

The Republicans were pinning their hopes on the Democratic disarray that followed the ouster of Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was kicked out of office over a long list of corruption charges, including the allegation that he tried to sell President Barack Obama's former Senate seat.

Losing that seat would be a bigger personal embarrassment for Obama than Republican Scott Brown's upset victory last month in Massachusetts, which took away the late Edward M. Kennedy's Senate seat.

The nominees who emerge from the bruising primary will fight for the chance to run a state so deep in debt that it can't pay bills on time and must consider painful service cuts, higher taxes or both.

"I don't trust any of them," said John Rogers, 62, a Chicago salesman, referring to a history of corruption among Illinois politicians. "Is anybody honest? No. You're voting for the lesser of two evils, as always."

In the governor's race, incumbent Pat Quinn is seeking a full term after being thrust into office a year ago when Blagojevich was expelled.

It initially appeared Quinn would win the Democratic nomination easily. But that was before the disclosure that a secret early-release program for prison inmates had included some violent offenders. It also was before his opponent, Comptroller Dan Hynes, introduced an ad featuring old footage of the late Chicago Mayor Harold Washington, a revered figure to many black voters, harshly criticizing Quinn.

Quinn responded by linking Hynes, whose office regulates cemetery finances, to the scandal at a historic black cemetery outside Chicago where bodies were double-stacked in graves or simply dumped in the weeds.

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