Illinois GOP loses seats, won’t relent on agenda

By Paolo Cisneros

Despite an Illinois electorate that is largely unhappy with the fissured Democratic majority of the General Assembly, state Republicans were unable to make numerical gains in the Nov. 4 election.

Democrats will have a 37 to 22 advantage in the Senate and a 70 to 48 advantage in the House when the new legislative session begins in January.

Brent Hassert, R-85, is a state representative who lost his re-election bid to Democratic challenger Emily Klunk-McAsey. He said that while most Illinois voters are upset with the Democrats who control the House, Senate and governor’s office, his own Republican Party must make changes if it hopes to make strides in the 2010 midterm elections.

Specifically, he said they need to re-evaluate how their stance on social issues is perceived.

“They can’t be viewed as too extreme,” he said. “They have to move towards the middle a little in Illinois.”

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At the same time, it is important to continue pushing the economic agenda that the party believes will help Illinois stay above the fray during the current national economic downturn, Hassert said.

David Dring, press secretary for House Republican Leader Tom Cross, said that while the odds will be stacked against the GOP for at least the next two years, the party will continue to push for a capital bill, economic stimulus package, property tax relief and increased funding for higher education.

“All these important issues haven’t been addressed because of Democratic infighting,” he said.

University political science Professor Brian Gaines said that while Illinois is perceived as being perpetually Democratic, the Republican Party will have its opportunity to take control of state government sooner or later.

Recent obstacles, however, have prevented that from happening. The current districts are drawn in favor of the Democrats, Gaines said.

Moreover, the party lacks compelling and well-known candidates for state office.

Republicans will have their work cut out for them if they hope to take back state government in 2010, Gaines said.

“They have to be disciplined about calling attention to the ways the Democrats running everything in Springfield has failed to solve problems,” he said.

Hassert said he believed seeing native son Barack Obama’s name on the presidential ticket helped prevent Illinois Republicans from making gains this time around. That problem, though, will not be an issue during the next election.

“In the next election, I think people are going to be much more focused on the state of Illinois,” he said.