Down Ballot

How a Local Campaign Became a National Referendum on Abortion
Author: Patrick Wohl
When an obscure primary election met the culture wars
Cloth – $110
Paper – $21.95
eBook – $14.95
Publication Date
Paperback: 01/09/2024
Cloth: 01/09/2024
Series: 3 Fields Books
Buy the Book Request Desk/Examination Copy Request Review Copy Request Rights or Permissions Request Alternate Format Preview

About the Book

In 1990, a suburban Chicago race for the Republican Party nomination for state representative between Penny Pullen and Rosemary Mulligan unexpectedly became a national proxy battle over abortion in the United States. But the hard-fought primary also illustrated the overlooked importance of down-ballot contests in America’s culture wars. Patrick Wohl offers the dramatic account of a rollercoaster campaign that, after attracting political celebrities and a media circus, came down to thirty-one votes, a coin toss to determine the winner, and a recount fight that set a precedent for how to count dimpled chads. As the story unfolds, Wohl provides a rare nuts-and-bolts look at an election for state office from its first days through the Illinois Supreme Court decision that decided the winner--and set the stage for a decisive 1992 rematch.

A compelling political page-turner, Down Ballot takes readers behind the scenes of a legendary Illinois election.

About the Author

Patrick Wohl is a former campaign staffer on races for president, governor, state senate, and state representative, and on ballot initiatives across the country.


"A whip-smart insider's history of a local election with real suspense and big consequences." --Foreword Reviews

"Engaging prose. . . . Will likely be a popular selection as the 2024 election draws near. It will also be of interest to those teaching civics and journalism." --Library Journal


“Patrick Wohl’s important, entertaining book illustrates what we lose when local news is replaced with nationalized political coverage. Anyone who thinks local politics is boring hasn’t heard of the Pullen-Mulligan race.”--Elise Jordan, NBC News and MSNBC political analyst

“The Pullen-Mulligan race was unlike any other I covered in thirty-plus years in journalism on so many levels. It absolutely underscores the importance of paying attention to local races and to the critical role local media play in our democracy.”--Madeleine Doubek, former Daily Herald political reporter and executive director of CHANGE Illinois

“Stacked with stranger-than-fiction details from decades ago, the story of Penny Pullen, Rosemary Mulligan, and their ferocious rivalry also serves as a timeless reminder of the centrality of local politics to the everyday life of every American--and what every American loses when there’s no one left to cover it.”--Jon Allsop, media and politics journalist, Columbia Journalism Review