Illini Republicans president aims to incite change


The Illini Republicans’ President Jack Johnson, who has been part of the organization since his freshman year at the University, hopes to see growing conservatism on campus. Since the midterm elections, the Illini Republicans seek greater student involvement.

By Erin Cady, Contributing Writer

Fresh off a hotly contested midterm election, both sides of the political spectrum had wins and losses.

For Illini Republicans President Jack Johnson, the hard work put into the campaign by the RSO felt like a success.

Johnson and the Illini Republicans are leading the march to bring conservatism to campus and argue the case for small government and civil liberties.

Johnson, junior in Engineering, has been involved with the Illini Republicans since his freshman year, after attending a 9/11 memorial event orchestrated by the organization. Since then, he has been an active member, holding the position of secretary as a freshman and now leading the club as president. 

But Johnson’s enthusiasm for the Republican Party did not start freshman year. In fact, he’s been on the side for minimum government and conservatism from a young age.

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“My biggest issue growing up was probably gun control,” Johnson said. “I got my first gun when I was 6, and so the right to own a gun is a big issue for me.”

Johnson said there is not one issue in particular that makes him a Republican, and the bulk of the party’s policies align with his worldview.

“Just following the Constitution, lower taxes and overall less government intervention and control are my biggest concerns,” Johnson said.

Using his passion and knowledge for the Republican Party, Johnson has attempted to give the Illini Republicans a clear direction by starting interesting dialogue and garnering respect from his peers.

University alumnus and former Illini Republicans Vice President Timothy Kilcullen said he believes Johnson has the skills necessary to make the Illini Republicans a household name on campus.

“His passion for the cause is undeniable,” Kilcullen said. “He really cares about these issues and really knows them inside and out.”

Another lifelong Republican, Kilcullen is a firm believer the Republican Party is best for individual freedom and respecting a person’s judgments and rights.

For him, the Supreme Court is an important concern, and having conservative control of the courts was considered a large milestone in the fight for Republican impact.

Kilcullen believes Johnson has been admirable in his efforts to start important discussions about the benefits and value of conservatism.

Namely, Kilcullen was very pleased about the Ice Cream with ICE event Jack organized for the Illini Republicans earlier on in the semester.

“He organized an event, Ice Cream with ICE, which was a really important event at a really important time,” Kilcullen said. “Many people on campus were being disrespectful toward the ICE agents and didn’t appreciate what they do to protect our country.”

While campaigning for the midterm elections, the Illini Republicans were busy working, organizing and tabling events, phone banks and speakers. Anything to help them promote conservative candidates and argue the case for Republicans was welcomed.

“We were phone banking, knocking on doors and sending out texts,” Johnson said. “Your basic stuff to let people know to get out and vote.”

Now that midterms are over, first-year graduate student and member of  the Illini Republicans Jakob Puckett hopes to see consistent student interaction and positive dialogue among the  Illini Republicans and other students.

“It’d be great to see us interact with other students,” Puckett said. “More tabling events and interactive events and get to have more discussion with students.”

For Johnson, the success of the midterms and the hard work put out by the Illini Republicans means the organization can slow down a bit and focus on bringing in guest speakers, having more debates and continuing to create constructive dialogue on campus.

Johnson believes in the Republicans’ message of liberty and personal freedom, and he has the peer support to bring those ideals into fruition.

“Jack is a great conservative, a great member of Illini Republicans, and I hope that he stays on as president,”  Kilcullen said.

The University will have to wait and see where Johnson leads the Illini Republicans and how it will work to spread its message of freedom to its peers at the University.

Regardless of which side of the political spectrum one leans, Puckett believes  the main goal of politics should be to improve the livelihoods of American citizens.

“Our party wants to build a fairer and more prosperous America,” Puckett said. “Our party has a more successful track record, and our main purpose is to just improve people’s lives. That’s always our main goal.”

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