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The Republican leaders’ responses

Thursday, Jan 12, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Illinois House Republican Leader Tony McCombie’s inaugural address…

I’ll start with saying Speaker, yes we can.

You know one day we debated on the floor. Now I’m off script sorry to my staff, and my husband. I said, to you Speaker, Representative? Is this a real bill? I think we’ll be doing that quite often.

Good afternoon, everybody. Thank you all for coming today. I appreciate that.

Thank you to my seat mate, Norine Hammond from Macomb for your nomination. I wouldn’t be standing here today if not for Norine. I have to tell you she has saved me from some very embarrassing floor speeches. Or more recently, when I called her to ask her opinion if I should run for this position, and if I would have her support, she said, “I got you baby.” Thank you.

And thank you to my friend and neighbor in Lee County, Brad Fritts, the youngest member ever elected to the Illinois House of Representatives. Congratulations to you and your family. I mean, what an accomplishment, elected at 22. I’m guessing most of you were not politically engaged at such a young age. Personally at 22, I was at Western Illinois University. I was on the six year plan. Trying to rebuild my GPA so I could actually graduate. Those are days and stories for another time.

It is really surreal to stand here before all of you today. I’m from Savanna, as you’ve heard, a small river town in Northwest Illinois. I was far from politically active, unless you consider all the scheming as girls do to deal with brothers growing up politics.

As a matter of fact, my friends and family, especially those here today are probably still wondering how and what in the world am I doing here? My family didn’t talk much about politics. But I knew my dad was a Reagan Republican and my mom was a JFK Democrat.

Our parents like many didn’t always have it easy but they raised us to be hard working individuals, demanding we respect ourselves but more importantly, we respect others. Many are not as fortunate as we are on this stage.

Today with me, I have my husband. We should all thank our husbands and wives. This is truly a team sport that were in. My big brother Kelly and some of my family are here and many of my dear, dear friends, my support system. I am so blessed and want to say thank you. Thank you for guiding me carrying me when I need it and helping me to be the very best to just about everything I’ve ever done.

You are rock stars and I love you.

To the members, especially the new members, of the 103 General Assembly here’s some advice, you haven’t asked but I’m a woman so I’m gonna give it, is that you be honest and genuine, with your colleagues, with your constituents and with yourself.

Have interesting conversations and learn from them. If you don’t know the answers, which you won’t it’s ok, let yourself be vulnerable and say so. Make the effort to change rather than silently accept what is wrong. Our position in politics is often regarded negatively. So let’s change that.

If you understand a policy and it will be a detriment to the people of Illinois and you still support it. That is a problem. Know this position is not about you. It’s about them. Represent your districts. Be present. Be engaged and never forget why you are here you are here to be their voice their representative.

Good luck on this adventure and congratulations to you all.

As we approach the new General Assembly, we see historic changes in leadership surrounding the redistricting process. We now see a wholesale change and who is leading all four caucuses in Springfield for the first time in more than 50 years. With that comes great responsibility and opportunity.

In 1876 the first African-American was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives John W. E. Thomas, a Republican if I may add. 46 years later, the first woman was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives, Laddie Holman O’Neill, also Republican.

God bless her. She was elect to 19 General Assemblies serving 40 years the longest serving female elected in the United States at the time until Barbara Flynn Currie. Not a Republican.

But our systems of checks and balances is at risk. With increasingly one party control of Illinois State Government, long-held respect by those who value democracy, our system of checks and balances between our co-equal branches of government is unbalanced and unhealthy for us all, Republicans, Democrats and Independents.

We have an opportunity with leadership changes to reimagine what we expect from our state government. We must prioritize the co-equal nature of our government and prioritize fulfilling the constitutional duty, one which supersedes party loyalty or providing those checks and balances.

My Republican colleagues in the House have put their faith in me to restore and to rebuild and to bring balance to Illinois. It will be difficult, but we will claw back in the wake of the worst gerrymandered maps in the country. Looking out at the audience, it’s like sitting in the House. We’re a little out of out of balance here, too, ladies and gents.

We must take the lessons we have learned from the past to politically and structurally reform Illinois, providing a brighter future for our families. Illinois families are leaving, and I would say due to the growing size of our government and the byproduct of bad policy. Illinois could be flourishing. Let’s put politics aside and come together, work together to decrease the high cost of government and crushing mandates and regulations on our schools, on our business and our communities.

I promise we can do that while improving outcomes, keeping families safe and serving our most vulnerable Believe it or not, we have 40 of 118 seats. The Republicans here represent a part of all 102 counties.

It’s amazing to think about that. We might not be your representative, but we represent a part of each and every county in the state. It’s time for courageous leadership. Leadership must be unafraid to be forthright. So I ask you, Speaker Welch don’t be afraid, bring us to the table.

We are problem solvers. So use our knowledge, benefit from our talents. And here our hearts. Let us show you that any preconceived notions about Republicans is false. We want to govern, so I asked you please don’t disregard our value.

Together, Speaker Welch and the members of the 103 General Assembly. Let’s look to the future. Let’s put aside political agendas and do what’s right. Let’s make Illinois better place to work and raise our families. And the only way to do that successfully, Speaker Welch, is to join me to be accessible, transparent and honest to bring our caucuses together to frame real solutions.

Please take note, and please follow my lead by example and how short my speech just was. Thank you all so much for coming today. I appreciate it and we need you more than you ever know. So thank you very much for coming and God bless Illinois.

Isabel did the transcription, so please pardon any errors.

* Illinois Senate Republican Leader John Curran…

Thank you, Gov. Pritzker and thank you to everyone for joining us here today in this celebration of our democracy.

Six years ago, I was a lawyer enthusiastic about public policy when I was appointed to fill the seat of my friend and the first female leader of an Illinois caucus Christine Radogno. I never imagined that my journey would lead me here to this historic place, at this revered podium, where so many memorable speeches were given. I assure you, this speech will not be one of them.

It is moving and a bit surreal to be honored with the confidence of my colleagues to lead us on our new path. Thank you.

This is one of the countless experiences that would never be possible without the support of my partner in life and love, my wife Sue. She, and so many other spouses in this great room today, do the real hard work behind the scenes so we can serve our districts here in Springfield. I am so proud of her and our four daughters whose talents and potential far outpace my own. I ran for office because young Illinoisans like them deserve a future with great opportunity for all.

I am also thinking of my parents, Tom and Margaret who were born in Ireland and met here in the Great State of Illinois. It is their hard work, perseverance and hope that paved my own road to the American dream.

Like many children around the world and right here in Illinois, my father was forced to drop out of school too young, to support his family.

At thirteen, he was sent from their small country farm to live in Galway City to work at a store during the week, and on a local farm on the weekends. Instead of going to school he was working to send money back home to help pay for his sister’s tuberculosis treatment.

At the age of eighteen he pioneered to America alone, with no family, too little money, and the hope of a better life.

He worked as a carpenter and married my mother who had been weaving her own story of immigration from Ireland. While my father worked on becoming a homebuilder, my mother was building our own home raising seven children. They didn’t just support our family here in Illinois, but went on to sponsor three of my father’s brothers for U.S. immigration and help get them all established here in the Great State of Illinois.

I wish that my parents and sister Marie were watching from these special seats, instead of heaven’s, but I feel their Irish spirit of love and light here today.

I’d like to thank the people of the 41st District who honor me with the opportunity to represent them in the Illinois Senate. They remind me of the nobility of public service and their votes for and against me continue to make me a better advocate for our community and our democracy.

Finally, thank you to Senate President Don Harmon for your dedication to the state of Illinois. I look forward to working with you in the year ahead.

Our democracy was designed to allow us to make a difference - even through our differences. In this spirit, Illinois is better served when our public policies are crafted from two, not one, participating parties. As legislators, I believe we can best respect our principles by sharing them with the other side and taking the time to listen and learn why they are important to the constituencies we represent.

Regardless of the letter next to our name, we are all here to do one thing - create a better Illinois.

That means that all legislators, not just the majority, are here to represent our constituents through creating strong, practical public policy. There are millions of Illinoisans who support the Republican principles of freedom and economic opportunity for all. It is my job as Leader to ensure that their votes and their voices are represented, and our caucus takes our role in that process very seriously.

There is a lot of talk about division in our politics and our state. While it may seem new, Illinois has overcome many challenges of division before. What matters right now are solutions.

Illinois families and businesses are facing great challenges. Inflation, unemployment, over-taxation and childcare challenges are affecting our job creators and our job seekers. Communities continue to suffer from the great emotional and economic toll of the pandemic-related crises.

If you are an Illinoisan, whether you’re from a farm or a flat, you have the right to be represented fairly and freely in our state government. That means as legislators, we must come together and lead by example to create a government that is just as effective for our Southern Illinois working mothers as it is for our Northern Illinois laborers.

Our agenda is focused on helping Illinois families and job creators rebuild and renew opportunity in Illinois. We need real, substantive and sound economic policies that are going to help improve the lives of the people in our state.

We will be thoughtful and genuine in our attempts to find opportunities to collaborate on behalf of the families and employers of Illinois. And we will continue to be steadfast in our voiceful opposition to misplaced policies that will hold our citizens and job creators back.

It is important for legislators to listen to and respect each other’s principles to better understand the needs of the districts outside of our own. I know through experience that with collaboration we can make real, true improvements to help reestablish Illinois as one of the greatest places to live, work and raise a family.

Unfortunately, progress is not always easy or quick. A true bipartisanship government will not be created overnight.

As the Irish say, “the longest road out is the shortest road home.”

It has been a long and difficult road for our party, our state and our world.

But the only way to move forward is to move on.

Today, January 11, 2023, the Illinois Senate Republicans are proudly facing the future.

Our caucus of innovative and dedicated public servants is moving forward for all Illinoisans - together. One idea, one meeting, one policy at a time.

Like my fellow legislators, I am also inspired by one of the world’s wisest Republicans, President Abraham Lincoln. And so, I will leave you with his words that are far better than my own:

“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in.”

Thank you. God bless you. God bless the Great State of Illinois.


  1. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Jan 12, 23 @ 11:06 am:

    === It’s amazing to think about that. We might not be your representative, but we represent a part of each and every county in the state.===

    Land doesn’t vote. It means very little if anything.

    === In 1876 the first African-American was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives John W. E. Thomas, a Republican if I may add.===

    … and yet the ILGOP embraces racist thinkers, and can’t boast any thoughts of inclusive, as an honest look of the caucuses and elected Republicans in 2023 show.

    === Looking out at the audience, it’s like sitting in the House. We’re a little out of out of balance here, too, ladies and gents.===

    Win seats. Projecting that balance is a “right” not earned by winning elections, than understanding that “winners make policy” will be lost in you throughout your leadership tenure.

  2. - Henry Francis - Thursday, Jan 12, 23 @ 11:21 am:

    === It’s amazing to think about that. We might not be your representative, but we represent a part of each and every county in the state.===

    Coming from the leader of a caucus that is 98% white and 85% male.

  3. - One Trick Pony - Thursday, Jan 12, 23 @ 11:22 am:

    “I’ll start with saying Speaker, yes we can.
    You know one day we debated on the floor. Now I’m off script sorry to my staff, and my husband. I said, to you Speaker, Representative? Is this a real bill? I think we’ll be doing that quite often.”

    Really? This is how you start your speech by going off script after the Speaker. What to put him on notice? Nice start - this will not help a party in the super-minority.

  4. - cermak_rd - Thursday, Jan 12, 23 @ 11:32 am:

    The only reason our checks and balances may be out of whack is because your party can’t win elections in the more populous parts of the states. Adapt or die.

  5. - train111 - Thursday, Jan 12, 23 @ 11:34 am:

    “the worst gerrymandering maps in the country”

    I thing your party colleagues across Illinois’ northern border may have us beat in that area.

  6. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Jan 12, 23 @ 11:38 am:

    === the worst gerrymandering maps in the country===

    The theme of her speech was… victimhood?

  7. - Thomas Paine - Thursday, Jan 12, 23 @ 12:21 pm:

    The Illinois Constitution does not provide for “co-equal” branches of government.

    The Legislature is Supreme under our Constitution.

    Madigan proved that time and again with Blagojevich, Quinn, and Rauner.

    What has changed is Citizens United, and unlimited spending by billionaires and special interest groups aggregating millionaires and billionaires.

    Democrats chose Pritzker largely because of his deep pockets, but only because his values consistently align with their values.

    MCCombie is living a fantasy if she thinks Democrats are going to join Republicans in opposing anything JB advocates. Where disagreements exist between Dem lawmakers and JB, they will work it out with no input from McCombie and her caucus.

    That makes Democrats in the house and senate the most likely recipients of support from biz groups traditionally aligned with Republicans. And McCombie in Savanna trying to raise money from fringe constituencies on vaccines, abortion, and guns.

    Democrats will pick up seats in 2024, that is my bet. And I will not be surprised to see more Republicans retire.

  8. - TheInvisibleMan - Thursday, Jan 12, 23 @ 12:28 pm:

    –here’s some advice, you haven’t asked but I’m a woman so I’m gonna give it–

    self-deprecating statements only work well if you are using personal things unique to you.

    self-deprecating jokes made based on assumed gender stereotypes of your audience, is not a wise choice.

    Many parts of her speech seemed to have a pretext of insulting women, which gave it an odd tone. Maybe it just came across more obviously in reading it than hearing it.

    –Is this a real bill? I think we’ll be doing that quite often.–

    Yes, I too believe you will continue to have a hard time understanding reality.

  9. - Rabid - Thursday, Jan 12, 23 @ 12:29 pm:

    ” believe it or not” leader of the unbelievers

  10. - Amalia - Thursday, Jan 12, 23 @ 12:33 pm:

    women have achieved equality when they succeed when they are as mediocre as men who succeed. so there’s that.

  11. - Stuck in Celliniland - Thursday, Jan 12, 23 @ 12:42 pm:

    === the worst gerrymandering maps in the country===

    And yet they still abandoned what is left of some longtime Democratic strongholds on the map, such as Sterling/Rock Falls, Canton, Demuzio Country (aka Carlinville and Gillespie), and even McCombie’s own Savanna.

  12. - btowntruth from forgottonia - Thursday, Jan 12, 23 @ 1:00 pm:

    They just couldn’t keep some digs at their opponents out of their remarks could they?

  13. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Jan 12, 23 @ 1:09 pm:

    === They just couldn’t keep some digs at their opponents out of their remarks could they?===

    The “aggrieved” wing of these caucus wanted these leaders…

  14. - Pot calling kettle - Thursday, Jan 12, 23 @ 1:21 pm:

    McCombie’s speech was sprinkled throughout with cringy moments.

    ===You know one day we debated on the floor. Now I’m off script sorry to my staff, and my husband. I said, to you Speaker, Representative? Is this a real bill? I think we’ll be doing that quite often.===

    Not exactly the best way to start a speech or begin a session with a tone of cooperation.

    === Looking out at the audience, it’s like sitting in the House. We’re a little out of out of balance here, too, ladies and gents.===

    Who/what is “out of balance”? When I looked at the stage I saw one side was almost all older white men in dark suits and the other side was a variety of gender, race, clothing and hair styles, etc. When McCombie made that statement is was a bit jarring because it sounded like an admission of what has happened to the Republican party.

    ===here’s some advice, you haven’t asked but I’m a woman so I’m gonna give it===

    Wow. I don’t even know where to begin with that one.

  15. - JS Mill - Thursday, Jan 12, 23 @ 1:28 pm:

    @Pot Calling Kettle +1. Really well stated.

    McCombie’s speech was thoroughly disappointing. I was hoping she would be the person I listened to in a few meetings. Sensible. But she has moved over to the hyper partisan by her speech.

    Curran’s speech was much better, but the bar is low.

  16. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Jan 12, 23 @ 1:43 pm:

    Nobody gonna comment on Curran’s speech? I thought it was pretty well-written.

  17. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Jan 12, 23 @ 1:47 pm:

    === Nobody gonna comment on Curran’s speech? I thought it was pretty well-written.===



    It’s the Senate.


    To Curran’s speech, I’ll say it was concisely perfect to the time and necessary temperament to one leading a caucus that needs to be engaged but not look unhinged or as aggrieved as McCombie’s.

    I like the JFK quote, I liked the self reflection too, and a nice, classy too, shoutout to Radogno. Cool stuff there.

  18. - Not a Superstar - Thursday, Jan 12, 23 @ 1:51 pm:

    == Is this a real bill? ==

    When she first said this, it wasn’t about just any bill. It was a bill requiring corporations to disclose the racial composition of their boards to the Secretary of State. She mocked this as illegitimate. And *this* is what she wants to tell the Speaker she’ll be doing more of? She couldn’t sound whiter if she tried.

  19. - Langhorne - Thursday, Jan 12, 23 @ 2:08 pm:

    Congratulations to Brad Fritts on his election to the Illinois House, at age 22.

    I attempted the same thing decades ago, at age 22, while a senior in college 160 miles from my district. I scheduled all my classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and cut Thursdays. Got 5000 votes. And lost.

  20. - Dotnonymous - Thursday, Jan 12, 23 @ 2:46 pm:

    Illinois has a Senate?

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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