* Daniel Vock at the Center for Illinois Politics scored the first extensive interview with Senate President John Cullerton since he announced his retirement. The whole thing is worth a read, but here’s one excerpt..
How exactly did the Senate Democrats build such a sizable majority? Cullerton says it’s mostly a matter of changing demographics in Illinois and good candidate recruitment. The caucus has emphasized recruiting women to run as candidates, particularly in the suburbs. That’s one reason why women now make up nearly half (17 of 40 seats) of the caucus. The presidency of Donald Trump has helped drive suburban voters to Democratic candidates, even in former Republican strongholds like DuPage County. But, he notes, Trump makes it harder for Democrats to win downstate. Cullerton has also been willing to spend heavily on tight races, in some cases even going in debt.
But Radogno, the former Republican leader, says there’s more to it than that. For one, Republican primary voters have often nominated candidates who are too conservative for the district they’re running in, so those candidates have lost in the general election. Plus, she says, just being in the majority makes it easier for the Democrats to raise money from political donors. And, of course, the Democratic majority is cemented in place because Democrats drew the district lines following the 2010 Census, giving them a built-in advantage for a decade.
Cullerton chafes at what he calls the “myth of the map.” When Republican Bruce Rauner first ran for governor in 2014, Cullerton says, Rauner won majorities in 35 Senate districts and two-thirds of the state’s congressional districts. (Not all state Senate seats were up for election that year, though.) “We drew fair maps that are competitive, and that’s why we have the potential to have as many as we get,” he says. “We don’t just take care of safe districts for 35 incumbents. There’s been demographic changes, but the maps themselves were extremely fair.”
Voters tend to split their tickets if they like their own legislators, but Cullerton and Radogno do make valid points. Better campaigns and candidates could produce better outcomes for Republicans. The first problem for the GOP is getting moderates past their primaries. The next problem is raising sufficient funds and devising sound campaign strategies.
* Thank goodness this era is behind us now…
The [”Grand Bargain” between Cullerton and Radogno] broke down because Rauner intervened. “The governor’s office did not think it was enough,” Radogno says. “I think that was foolish in hindsight. And he literally threatened members.”
Rauner won that little battle and lost the war.