Only ‘wave’ Illinois Republicans see in Legislature is the farewell one from Durkin as House GOP leader

State House GOP Leader Jim Durkin’s decision not to seek reelection as minority leader reflects the dissatisfaction among many establishment Republicans.

SHARE Only ‘wave’ Illinois Republicans see in Legislature is the farewell one from Durkin as House GOP leader
Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield last year.

Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield last year.

Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP-file

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With redistricting on their side, strong fundraising from party leaders and a boost of millions from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, statehouse Democrats appear to be retaining their supermajority statuses in both chambers — and likely even growing that advantage in the House.

There was no “red wave” — or even a ripple — in the Illinois General Assembly.

And Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin’s post-Election Day announcement that he will not seek reelection as minority leader reflects the dissatisfaction among many of the state’s establishment Republicans.

“I began this journey as a voice of moderation and conclude this journey the same way I started, a voice of moderation,” the Western Springs Republican said in a statement. “To the people of Illinois disappointed with these results: Don’t give up hope. Tomorrow is a new day.”

Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (left); House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch (right).

Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (left); House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch (right).

Rich Hein/Sun-Times; Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP

The writing was already on the wall for Durkin after Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin lost the Republican primary race for governor.

Statehouse Republicans were hopeful that Irvin, with millions in support from billionaire hedge fund manager Ken Griffin, could help to reshape the state party. But Irvin’s loss was coupled with the state GOP’s embrace of state Sen. Darren Bailey, a far-right Donald Trump backer whom some Republicans found tough to support.

Durkin was hopeful messages about crime and the economy could help pick up three seats to break the Democratic supermajority.

A “supermajority” is the three-fifths majority that any bill passed after May 31 requires for the law to go into effect within the next 12 months. A supermajority is also required to override a governor’s veto.

Both state Senate President Don Harmon and House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch on Tuesday declared they had kept their supermajorities in their respective chambers. After Tuesday’s decisive victories, Democrats essentially tightened their grip on state government, holding every statewide elected office and gaining another seat on the Illinois Supreme Court.

The Illinois House currently has 73 Democrats and 45 Republicans — but Republicans on Wednesday estimated they were down to 41 seats, and potentially 40, as they awaited the final results of one incumbent race. That means Democrats were on their way to picking up four or five seats. Forty House seats were uncontested.

The Illinois Democratic Party anticipated four legislative pickups, but was still awaiting the final results on three races, including in the northwest suburban 51st District, where 23-year-old Nabeela Syed declared victory over Republican incumbent Chris Bos, making her the youngest member of the new Illinois General Assembly. Syed led Bos 52% to 48% with 95% of precincts reporting.

Rep. Chris Bos and Nabeela Syed.

Rep. Chris Bos and Nabeela Syed.

Chris Bos photo by Rich Hein/Sun-Times. Nabeela Syed/Provided photo

“My name is Nabeela Syed. I’m a 23-year old Muslim, Indian-American woman. We just flipped a Republican-held suburban district,” Syed tweeted.

Democrats will also retain their supermajority status in the Illinois Senate, which has 41 Democrats and just 18 Republicans. Republicans needed to pick up six seats to break the supermajority. Thirty-four seats were uncontested.

A worst-case scenario would be the loss of two Democratic seats, with Senate Democrats still holding a supermajority of 39 or 40 seats. In the 56th District in southern Illinois, Republican Erica Conway Harriss defeated the incumbent, state Sen. Kris Tharp 51% to 49%.

Democrats are still awaiting results of state Sen. Michael Hasting’s race in his southwest suburban 19th District. Hastings, who faced Republican challenger Patrick Sheehan, has faced calls to resign amid allegations of domestic abuse from his ex-wife when they were married, which he has denied. He has not been charged with any crime and has denied any wrongdoing.

With 95% percent of precincts reporting, Hastings and Sheehan were tied at 50%. The race is likely to be decided by mail-in ballots. The Senate Democratic campaign fund did not provide dollars or resources for Hastings’ campaign.

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