CHICAGO — Threatened by scandal, Gov. Rod Blagojevich combined an optimistic message with a barrage of negative ads to push past Republican challenger Judy Baar Topinka and win a second term.

The Democratic governor promised four years of hard work on gun control, health care, education and more.

“I’m grateful for the people of Illinois for their vote of confidence,” Blagojevich said today as he greeted commuters on the Chicago Transit Authority’s Blue Line.

With 10,134 of 11,692 precincts counted in unofficial returns, Blagojevich had 49 percent, or 1,447,766 votes, to 40 percent or 1,190,260 for Topinka.

Perhaps reflecting widespread discontent with the major-party candidates, Rich Whitney of the Green Party had 11 percent, or 314,789 votes — a remarkable total for an unknown with no money.

Topinka, the three-term state treasurer, said she had no hard feelings about her defeat. “That happens. People win, people lose,” she said.

She had tried to make the election a referendum on Blagojevich’s ethics.

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald has said he is investigating “very serious” allegations of hiring fraud at multiple agencies under Blagojevich. One Blagojevich appointee has pleaded guilty in a kickback scheme, and a top-level Blagojevich friend and fundraiser has been indicted.

Blagojevich accepted a $1,500 gift from a friend after the man’s wife received a state job. Blagojevich’s wife, a real estate agent, has made thousands of dollars working with the indicted fundraiser and a couple whose businesses depend on decisions by the Blagojevich administration.

Neither Blagojevich has been charged with any crime.

Exit polling found that 86 percent of voters considered corruption and ethics “extremely” or “very important” in their vote for governor, but that didn’t translate into a big Topinka advantage. Blagojevich got the support of about half those voters, while Topinka got only 4 in 10.

His strong performance might reflect the success of his ads portraying Topinka as clueless and corrupt — an extension of former Republican Gov. George Ryan, who faces six years in prison on federal corruption charges.

“Basically, voters got the message that you can vote for Corrupt Person A or Corrupt Person B,” said Cynthia Canary, executive director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. “It’s not that they didn’t care. It’s that they didn’t see a vehicle for change.”

Blagojevich offered no apology for his ads. “All I can say is politics is a rough and tumble business,” he said Tuesday.

While battering Topinka with his ads, Blagojevich offered voters an ambitious and optimistic agenda for the future.

He reminded them of first-term accomplishments — such as raising the minimum wage, expanding health care programs and cutting state jobs — and promised even more. Blagojevich said he would raise wages again, offer universal health care, ban assault weapons and privatize the lottery to increase school funding.

Blagojevich, 49, becomes the first Democrat to win back-to-back terms as Illinois governor since Otto Kerner in 1964.

“This is a historic achievement, and I think it gives us the foundation to really push forward reforms for health care and education that will last generations,” said Blagojevich’s running mate, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn.

Blagojevich will have a Democrat-controlled Legislature to work with, as he did in his first term. That sometimes proved to be a mixed blessing, with House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President Emil Jones clashing with the governor.

Blagojevich’s win, coupled with a Democratic sweep of every statewide office, is another blow for the Illinois Republican Party, which already has seen Ryan’s conviction, a drubbing in statewide races four years ago and a disastrous 2004 U.S. Senate race in which one candidate withdrew amid a sex scandal and a conservative commentator brought in from Maryland suffered a crushing defeat to rising Democratic star Barack Obama.

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