Illinois GOP looks past national divide, seeks leader who can unite far right, middle, city and downstate: ‘We’re all Republicans’
Republican committeemen are planning to meet Saturday to elect a successor to outgoing Chairman Tim Schneider. They hope a new face at the head of their party will bring the “new energy” and “new ideas” needed to unite Republicans and win on Election Day.
With fissures dividing the national Republican Party as it searches for direction and a message after the presidency of Donald Trump, the Illinois GOP is waging its own, lower profile quest for unity as members prepare to pick a new leader who can bring them together.
But rather than disagreeing over Trump, freshman Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, stolen elections or other conspiracy theories, the Illinois Republican Party’s challenge is to bridge ideological differences, reach out to minority and urban voters — and go back to winning elections.
Members of the state GOP committee are planning to meet Saturday to elect a successor to outgoing Chairman Tim Schneider, who’s been in the seat since 2014.
Illinois Republicans are hoping a new face at the head of their party will bring the “new energy” and “new ideas” needed to unite Republicans and “appeal to the most people possible” to make gains in the statehouse, Senate and other higher offices.
Members of the state Republican Central Committee who spoke to the Chicago Sun-Times on Thursday focused on their own state party, stressing a need for unity and someone who can fundraise effectively as they prepare for 2022.
Mark Hosty, who represents the 7th Congressional District in Chicago and the nearby suburbs, said he’s looking for a chair who can “work with a conservative, an ultra-conservative, a moderate.
“We’re all Republicans,” Hosty said. “Our goal is getting Republicans elected and keeping the party strong.”
Joe Hackler, the spokesman for the Illinois Republican Party, said the new leader is going to focus on Illinois and not get bogged down with what’s going on nationally.
“We strongly believe that Democrats … have failed the state of Illinois and we’ll need to focus on those particular issues: Our taxes are too high, it’s too expensive to live here, people are fleeing the state,” Hackler said. “We’re going to focus on the local issues because those are the things that, whether you’re with [U.S. Rep. Adam] Kinzinger, or against, whether you’re a Trump-skeptic, or not, we can all agree on those issues and things we need to fight here in Illinois.”
John McGlasson, who represents Kinzinger’s 16th Congressional District for the party, said he’s requested his colleagues open with a discussion about the Republican congressman, who has been a vocal critic of Trump and was one of 10 Republicans to vote to impeach the former president, though McGlasson’s not saying he wants to censure Kinzinger.
“He has every right to his opinions and his votes,” McGlasson said. “But, I think it’s important that the party as a whole make an indication that he is speaking strictly for himself and not the party.”
Jay Reyes, who represents the 4th Congressional District in Chicago and the nearby suburbs, said unity at the state party level involves bringing together the various different segments of the party — from Republicans in more metropolitan areas to those in more rural areas.
“Illinois is such a diverse state regionally and culturally, ethnically, religiously, and I think the next chairman really needs to be one of those experts at bringing all of those different interests [together] — you know, the rural people, the suburban people, the inner city people.”
Fred Floreth, who represents central Illinois’ 13th Congressional District, said the next leader of the party needs to help the GOP “appeal to not traditionally Republican communities, like African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans and many others.”
“We need to communicate to them that the Republican party is the party of freedom,” Floreth said.
Three candidates are vying to lead the party — Lake County Republican Chair Mark Shaw, who currently serves as state party co-chair and president of the Republican County Chairmen’s Association; former Illinois Gaming Chair Don Tracy and Kendall County Board Chair Scott Gryder.
Gryder did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Tracy said in an email he’s not doing media interviews, but he said in a statement the “state is in danger of “becoming a depopulated, left wing, one party, over-taxed, and anti-police financial basket case.
“Having been born in Illinois, and spent most of my life in Illinois, I am determined to help reverse Illinois’ decline,” he said.
Shaw, who’s been on the state central committee for nearly nine years, said he believes that since the summer of 2018, the party has worked “hard to try to develop a program that can appeal to a broad spectrum of voters.”
When asked about the divisions within the national party, Shaw pointed out that only 10 Republicans in the U.S. House voted to authorize an article of impeachment.
“So, I wouldn’t call that a significant division,” Shaw said. “I think Republicans are very united, especially in Illinois.”