1986 Illinois gubernatorial election

← 1982 November 4, 1986 1990 →
Turnout52.37% Decrease 9.21 pp
Nominee James R. Thompson Adlai Stevenson III No candidate
Party Republican Illinois Solidarity Democratic
Running mate George Ryan Mike Howlett Mark Fairchild
Popular vote 1,655,849 1,256,626 208,830
Percentage 52.7% 40.0% 6.6%

County results
Thompson:      40-50%      50-60%      60-70%      70-80%
Stevenson:      40-50%      50-60%

Governor before election

James R. Thompson

Elected Governor

James R. Thompson

The 1986 Illinois gubernatorial election was held on November 4, 1986. Republican candidate James R. Thompson won a fourth term in office, defeating Solidaritist Adlai Stevenson III by around 400,000 votes. The Democratic Party just passed the 5% mark to retain major party status.

Primaries were held March 18, 1986.[1]

Election information

The primaries and general elections coincided with those for federal offices (Senate and House), as well as those for other state offices. The election was part of the 1986 Illinois elections.[1][2]


The primaries saw turnout of 21.10% in the gubernatorial primaries, with 1,289,162 votes cast, and turnout of 18.01% in the lieutenant gubernatorial primaries, with 1,100,110 votes cast.[1]

Turnout during the general election was 52.37%, with 3,143,978 votes cast.[2]

Democratic primary

The 1986 election was a rematch of the 1982 election, which had been narrowly won by Thompson over Adlai Stevenson III by about 5,000 votes out of over 3.5 million votes cast. However, Stevenson's efforts were largely derailed in the primary when the candidates he supported for Lieutenant Governor (George Sangmeister) and Secretary of State (Aurelia Pucinski) were both upset by Mark J. Fairchild and Janice Hart. While not heavily publicized during the primaries, Fairchild and Hart were followers of the controversial Lyndon LaRouche. When this became public knowledge after the primaries, Stevenson was forced to abandon his Democratic Party nomination and run as a third-party candidate. As of 2016, this remains the last time a third party candidate finished in the top two in the Illinois governor's race.[3]

Stevenson made it clear right after learning his running mate was to be a LaRouche supporter that he would "never run on a ticket with candidates who espouse the hate-filled folly of Lyndon LaRouche".[4]


Adlai Stevenson III, former United States Senator and 1982 gubernatorial nominee, defeated Larry Burgess in the Democratic primary.

Originally Neil Hartigan had declared himself a candidate for governor, but after Stevenson's entrance into the race, he instead opted to run for reelection as Illinois Attorney General.[5][6]

Democratic gubernatorial primary[1]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Adlai E. Stevenson 735,249 92.93
Democratic Larry Burgess 55,930 7.07
Write-in Others 1 0.00
Total votes 791,180 100

Lieutenant Governor

Democratic lieutenant gubernatorial primary[1]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Mark J. Fairchild 340,727 51.75
Democratic George E. Sangmeister 317,700 48.25
Write-in Others 4 0.00
Total votes 658,431 100

Republican primary


Incumbent James R. Thompson defeated his sole challenger, Peter Bowen.

Republican gubernatorial primary[1]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican James R. Thompson (incumbent) 452,685 90.90
Republican Peter Bowen 45,236 9.08
Write-in Others 61 0.01
Total votes 497,982 100

Lieutenant Governor

Incumbent George Ryan won the Republican primary for lieutenant governor, running unopposed.

Republican lieutenant gubernatorial primary[1]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican George Ryan (incumbent) 441,672 100
Write-in Others 7 0.00
Total votes 441,679 100

Third-party nominations

Adlai Stevenson III's newly-formed Illinois Solidarity Party nominated him for governor and Mike Howlett for lieutenant governor.

The Libertarian Party nominated Gary L. Shilts for governor and Gerry Walsh for lieutenant governor.[7]

The Socialist Workers Party nominated Diane Roling for governor and Jim Little for lieutenant governor.[7]

General election

1986 Illinois gubernatorial election[2]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican James R. Thompson (incumbent)/ George Ryan (incumbent) 1,655,849 52.67 +3.23
Illinois Solidarity Adlai Stevenson III/ Mike Howlett 1,256,626 39.97 N/A
Democratic No candidate/ Mark Fairchild 208,830 6.64 -42.66
Libertarian Gary L. Shilts/ Gerry Walsh 15,646 0.50 -0.16
Socialist Workers Diane Roling/ Jim Little 6,843 0.22 +0.22
Write-in Charles E. Koen 141 0.01 N/A
Write-in Wilbur L. Keeling 30 0.00 N/A
Write-in David L. Bernabie 13 0.00 N/A
Majority 399,223 12.70
Turnout 3,143,978 52.37
Republican hold Swing


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "OFFICIAL VOTE Cast at the PRIMARY ELECTION GENERAL PRIMARY, MARCH 18, 1986" (PDF). www.elections.il.gov. Illinois Secretary of State. Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  2. ^ a b c "OFFICIAL VOTE Cast at the GENERAL ELECTION NOVEMBER 4, 1986" (PDF). www.elections.il.gov. Illinois State Board of Elections. Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  3. ^ Malcolm, Andrew H. (20 March 1986), "2 CONSERVATIVE EXTREMISTS UPSET DEMOCRATS IN THE ILLINOIS PRIMARY", New York Times, pp. A18, retrieved 9 November 2016, However, politicians here suggested other reasons: an unusually low turnout of about 25 percent of the 6.1 million registered voters and the relatively unfamiliar names of Mr. Stevenson's candidates, George Sangmeister for Lieutenant Governor and Aurelia Pucinski for Secretary of State. The LaRouche victors were Mark J. Fairchild for Lieutenant Governor and Janice Hart for Secretary of State.
  4. ^ Kraft, Scott; Greem, Larry (20 March 1986), "Two LaRouche Illinois Victories Stun Democrats", L.A. Times, retrieved 9 November 2016, At a packed news conference Wednesday night, Stevenson declared: "I will never run on a ticket with candidates who espouse the hate-filled folly of Lyndon LaRouche."
  5. ^ Dold, R. Bruce (8 December 1985). "RYAN FIGHTS HISTORY IN CAMPAIGN". chicagotribune.com. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  6. ^ Dold, R. Bruce (30 October 1986). "CAREY FIGHTS HARTIGAN`S LEAD IN ATTORNEY GENERAL CONTEST". chicagotribune.com. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  7. ^ a b Egler, Daniel (31 July 1986). "STEVENSON IN FILING LINE BEHIND MINOR PARTIES". chicagotribune.com. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 10 April 2020.