Chicago: After meeting with leaders of the Polish community in Chicago, Gov Rauner spoke with reporters and responded in part to the uproar in the Republican Party following his signing HB-40, that would allow for state funding of abortions, and allow state workers to have abortions covered by their state health insurance.
The Governor said “Reasonable people can have reasonable differences.” He went on to say that no one issue defines a political party and that he will continue to champion his agenda of bringing economic reforms to the state. These economic issues are generally what unites Republicans.
But when asked by Illinois Channel contributing correspondent, Jeff Berkowitz, as to whether the Governor feels he can win re-election if many of the Republican base chooses to state at home, the Governor merely said he would not get into details about politics at this time.
But the discontent within the Illinois Republican Party with the Governor is a very real issue Gov Rauner will have to face, if he intends to seek re-election. Increasingly many of his past supporters are saying they can no longer support him in the wake of his signing HB-40, and his signing off on legislation that many Republicans feel makes Illinois a “Sanctuary State.”
And as we move into Campaign 2018, it’s also increasingly clear, the election will not be just Republicans vs Democrats, but rather Rauner Republicans vs traditional Republicans, with the survivors going on to face Democratic opponents.
In the last cycle, the House Republicans picked up four new seats, but with so many Republican incumbents deciding they’ve had enough, the outlook for House Republicans in 2018 is difficult at best.
Veterans of the party continue to announce they will not seek re-election. This week, Rep David Harris (R), a long-time veteran of the House, admired by many in both parties, said he would not seek another term.
Harris, who was one of 15 House Republicans that voted to override the Governor’s veto of the state budget, was going to face a primary challenger, funded by the Governor. He said that in talking with his friends and family, he no longer felt he could be effective with a Governor that opposing him, nor did he wish to spend $400,000 or more on a primary election.
Given the turmoil and exodus of incumbents, it’s clear that Illinois House Republicans are going to have a very difficult time holding onto the seats they currently hold, much less pick up the nine seats they need to take over as a majority party.
The list of House Republican incumbents, who are not seeking re-election, is extremely unusual, and comes after the Budget issue brought to public view the deep discontent that many Republican office holders have with Gov Rauner’s administration and governing style.
Among the veteran Republican lawmakers who have announced they will not seek re-election in 2018 are Rep Patti Bellock, Rep Steven Andersson, Rep Barb Wheeler, Rep Bob Pritchard, and Rep Chad Hays. But that is not a complete list of those planning to leave.
With David Harris now departing as well, some political observers say the Republicans are losing the backbone of the House Republicans, who have the long service, institutional knowledge and close relationships, that can make a member of the minority party still effective.
Many of those leaving, say they are put off by what they see as an effort from the Governor’s office to turn House Republicans into political puppets, with the Governor pulling the strings.
In confidential interviews, members of the Republican caucus tell the Illinois Channel, the Governor has come to their meetings and barked commands of how they should vote, or yelling at individual members who voted against the Governor’s position.
As Rep David Harris said in an interview with the Daily Herald in discussing his decision not to run again, the Illinois Republican party is now at war with itself.