Illinois Republicans are hopeful for GOP’s future

More than 1,000 people attended the 2012 Illinois State Republican Convention at the Tinley Convention Center in hopes of “restoring Illinois’ greatness.” The convention was held in Tinley Park, Ill., from June 8-9 and included state and national Republican leaders along with delegates and alternative delegates selected during the Illinois Republican Primary held in March. Registered guests simply looking to advocate issues or show support for the Republican Party were present as well.

Jamie King, a Champaign County delegate pursuing a degree in international affairs at George Washington University, said that “conservative values” are something that influenced him to seek a delegate spot.

“I believe personally that people should have the right to make their own destiny and make their own path,” King said. “That’s what this country’s been founded on. I believe that conservative values provide the best security for those values that we hold dear as Americans.”

King added that the convention was beneficial in helping people from across the state gather and reach agreements on issues.

“I believe with meeting new people, talking with the various people from all across the state, we can form a better picture as to the stance position of the Republican Party in Illinois,” King said. “We can work together for a better future for not only the Republican Party, but for the state as a whole.”

Jeff Kibler, a Champaign County delegate and University graduate looking to fill a Champaign County Board seat in District 5, said the convention was the first one he had ever attended and that he was running for office for the first time as well.

Kibler found that he learned a lot from other people at the convention whom had previously ran for office.

“You really learn a lot from others who’ve been through this,” he said. “Most of the people that are here have run for office before. Understanding their trials and tribulations, understanding what they’ve done to succeed; that’s what this is about, really understanding what you need to do to succeed.”

He also said the convention helped better educate him on different issues affecting counties throughout Illinois.

“The great thing about this event, not only from the networking side, is just learning about different issues from different perspectives, understanding the troubles that occur within Cook County are vastly different than the troubles that occur in Champaign,” he said.

On Friday morning, training sessions were held for convention attendees, which included areas such as social media, precinct organization and “getting out the vote.” During the evening, the Illinois Republican Party hosted a reception with Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus as its special guest. Priebus delivered a speech that hammered a message in opposition to President Barack Obama. “We’re not here because we’re worried about the future of the Republican Party; we’re here because we’re worried about the future of America,” Priebus said. “I will tell you that this president’s priorities are not America’s priorities.”

Friday’s festivities ended with convention attendees visiting hospitality rooms set up by Republican organizations and leaders throughout the convention center. One room set up by Ron Paul supporters included a karaoke stage. Even State Sen. Bill Brady stopped by to observe the spectacle of Republicans of all stripes enjoying each other’s company through music.

On Saturday, the convention’s official business went underway. The general session began with the “Pledge of Allegiance,” followed by the national anthem. Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady then stepped up to the podium and delivered a heated speech praising the reforms of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker while attacking Illinois Democrats, especially Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

“One thing that we can all agree upon is that we’re fed up with Chicago Democrats. It’s time for a change,” Brady said. “I can stand up here for hours and days and tell you about what I think about Mike Madigan and his single-party rule and how he’s destroyed this state … but let’s face facts.

What are we going to do about it as Republicans? What is the Republican Party going to do about it? … We’re going to do exactly what they did in Wisconsin and what other big states have done to rid themselves of the failed policies of the big government liberal Democrats: We’re going to out-hustle them, outsmart them and get them out of office.”

Other Republican leaders and lawmakers that gave speeches during the convention included U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock (R-18), U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-8) and an Illinois State Representative famous for his tirade on the Illinois House floor last month over a pension bill, Mike Bost. Some courses of action they advocated for Illinois in their speeches involved the following: repealing the income tax hike, passing a balanced budget and making a business climate in Illinois that is friendly and viable. They also stressed removing Madigan from his position as Illinois House Speaker, replacing the Illinois House with a Republican majority. One prestigious Republican lawmaker notably absent from the convention was U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk due to his recovery from a stroke he had in January. With the convention over, Illinois will be sending a total of 69 total delegates to the Republican National Convention in Tampa before the November elections.

The end of Brady’s speech served as a summary of the convention’s overall theme.

“I will go on record right now, in conclusion, in front of cameras, reporters and most importantly to you, the leadership of the Illinois Republican Party, and guarantee that if we execute the victory program like we’re going to do in this election, like we did in 2010, like Texas Republicans have done for 30 years, like our cheesehead buddies did last week, we will elect a Republican Governor in 2014,” Brady said. “I believe that this is the greatest and most effective contribution the Illinois Republican Party can make: Is that we fight to restore Illinois’ greatness.”