As the RNC Kicks Off, A Look at the GOP in Illinois

Leading up to and during his term as Illinois’ 42nd governor, Bruce Rauner spent some of his personal fortune to help boost the Republican Party in the state.

He’s not only no longer doing that, Rauner’s not even registered to vote in Illinois anymore; he’s set to cast his ballot from Florida.

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It’s a sign of the lurch the Illinois GOP is in: The Congressional delegation is split 13 Democrats to five Republicans, both of the state’s U.S. Senators are Democrats, there are no GOP constitutional officers and Republicans are in super-minorities in both the Illinois House and Senate.

It wasn’t always this way; in Gov. Jim Edgar’s day it was Republicans who held the reins in Illinois.

But, in another indication of the state party’s identity crisis, Edgar is voting for Democrat Joe Biden instead of President Donald Trump.

“Donald Trump just hasn’t grown in office. I hoped when he got elected that maybe he might grow in office,” Edgar said. “He has been more of a disappointment than I thought he would be four years ago, and I was definitely bummed out when he won four years ago. But I’m just – I think this country has suffered a lot that going to take a while to take care of.”

While Trump is popular in much of downstate Illinois, Edgar said the President hurts Republican candidates who run statewide, in the city of Chicago and in the suburbs.

“If Trump would lose in November, then I think the Republican Party in Illinois statewide has a better chance of coming back,” Edgar said. “Republican candidates have to answer everything Trump says and does. … It hurts them in the suburbs and in the city.”

Illinois Republican Party chairman Tim Schneider said on Monday that President Donald Trump can win the state.

“Our side has the energy going this election. Who really cares about Sleepy Joe and Kamala Harris,” Schneider said. “People aren’t rushing out the door to vote for Joe Biden.”

The “lawlessness in Chicago” will put Trump on the victory path, Schneider said.

“With the rioting and the protests … peaceful protest is one thing but rioting and looting and then allowing the mayor of Chicago to barricade her four blocks around her and protect her with 150 police and then not protect our downtown and our Magnificent Mile and what about these terrible crimes and murders and shootings,” Schneider said. “That’s going on in Illinois everywhere with a Democratic mayor and a Democratic governor. We need to make Illinois Republican again so we can institute policies that are positive for the people of Illinois. Keep people from leaving our state. Or as I always say, we’re going to need a wall around Illinois, just to keep people in.”

Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers say Democrats who control the General Assembly are stalling on beefing up ethics measures even as for the fourth time prosecutors filed federal charges against a member of the legislature and as powerful utility ComEd has admitted to a massive bribery scheme tied to Democratic Party of Illinois chairman and Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Madigan has not been charged and denies any inappropriate conduct.

A bipartisan Joint Commission on Lobbying and Ethics Reform has not met for months, even as other legislative groups have gathered in person or virtually.

“Now is not the time to use the pause button on ethics issues,” Sen. Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods, said. “Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, an ethical cloud hanging over Springfield needs to be addressed and our commission can do that in a safe manner.”

Democrats say Republicans are politicizing the issue; one co-chair of the commission said the group has not met because he has been busy with constituents and health care facilities with coronavirus-related issues.

Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky

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