What is your expectation regarding your future with the Illinois Republican Party?
My expectation is to continue to serve the party, its principles and its candidates. My colleagues on the State Central Committee are seriously considering me for the position of State Party Chairman. Should they elect me, it would be a great honor to serve as the party’s leader. In fact, it is an honor to be considered for the post.
If you were to become chairman of the party, what would be your first order of business?
Begin the process of recruiting excellent candidates for office who represent the best ideas the party has to offer, fidelity to the principles upon which this country and the party were conceived, and who can lead in a manner that is optimistic, inclusive and forward-thinking.
How would you lead a state party with such diverse interests and opinions?
First and foremost, you must recognize diversity as a strength. The GOP must welcome the input and insights of the voters, appreciate their efforts and move forward on those matters about which we can find common ground.
Also, we must respect the opinions and heartfelt beliefs of voters on those matters upon which common cause cannot yet be attained.
Policy differences on a few issues cannot be paralyzing as to all other issues. Having said that, I fully expect the GOP to continue to champion the worth and dignity of each person and to recognize that government must be family-friendly and not family-destructive. I further expect the GOP to focus on assuring that Illinois families and businesses are not overtaxed and overregulated. We will fight the Democrats’ policies that tax, spend and sue businesses and jobs out of state.
The chasm between downstate and Chicago is real. What advantage does the party gain by having a downstate leader? What is the disadvantage?
The chasm between “downstate” and the city of Chicago is actually a product of a Democrat Party, now in control of the three branches of state government, being entirely Chicago-centric.
Not only is the rest of the state not represented in the Democrat hierarchy, but neither is suburban Cook County! The best way to bridge that chasm is to break up the absolute dominance of Chicago Democrats in all branches of government.
Because the Republican Party tries to fairly represent all of Illinois, we are the only ones who deal with the great diversity of this state. Our party genuinely tries to address the concerns of citizens in western, central and southern Illinois. We work to develop consensus on tough issues. The Democrats simply ignore much of Illinois voters and their concerns. Forging consensus in four wards in Chicago is much easier than forging consensus in 102 counties in Illinois.
The Party wins its elections in the area outside the city of Chicago. You need someone who understands the voters outside Chicago and outside the Chicago media market.
Many of the most popular and successful Republicans in Illinois in the last decade have been from outside Chicago: Jim Edgar, Charleston; Dennis Hastert, Yorkville; John Shimkus, Collinsville; Frank Watson, Greenville; Tom Cross, Oswego; and Dan Rutherford, Pontiac!
These men are proven, effective leaders. They have the ability to attract cross-over votes from rank and file Democrats and are popular among Illinois’ independent and swing voters. Each understands life exists beyond I-80.
I see no downside to the Republican Party choosing a chairman from outside the city of Chicago. In choosing a chairman, we would be wise to focus on the wishes of this state’s voters and not just a room full of Chicago businessmen.
How do Republicans recapture the Governor’s office? Where can gains be made?
The Republicans win the governor’s office by coalescing behind a candidate with broad appeal that is unifying in his or her style and message, and not polarizing.
We won the White House in 2000 for precisely that reason. Most Republicans recognized in George W. Bush a person we could rally around. While there were other very fine Republicans who sought the nomination, the GOP base decided to focus their attentions on bringing an end to the Clinton-Gore era instead of spending energy and resources on a divisive primary.
Illinois needs to do the same. If we do, we will win the governor’s office and other important constitutional offices. If we opt for a divisive, brutal primary, our chances of success diminish greatly.
As for races we can win, the GOP should be able to win back the Congressional seat lost by Phil Crane and we can win the 17th Congressional seat held by Lane Evans should Andrea Zinga run again. That district runs from the Quad City area down to Macoupin County.
I also think we can pick up House seats in southern Illinois, the Metro-East and the Moline area. We can also pick up seats in the collars and Suburban Cook County. With a unified party and the continued excellent recruitment of candidates, the GOP has an excellent chance at winning back control of either or both Houses in the legislature.