CHICAGO (AP) — National Republican legislative groups say eliminating Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan's Democratic supermajority is among the top goals in the 2014 election, and are pledging financial assistance and other help to local party members.
The Republican Legislative Campaign Committee and the Republican State Leadership Committee are holding a conference in Colorado this week, and say they're planning to highlight what they describe as top Illinois Democrats "dragging down their party" in an effort to erode that party's control of the state House. The GOP groups cite unemployment that's been higher than the national average and billions of dollars in unpaid state bills as evidence of mismanagement by Democratic leadership.
A major reason for the GOP's push: Getting rid of a supermajority will make it easier for a Republican governor to push his agenda through the Democrat-heavy legislature. Gov. Pat Quinn is facing a difficult re-election battle against Republican businessman Bruce Rauner in a nationally watched race.
"They believe that support in the House is extremely important for a Republican governor," House GOP leader Jim Durkin told The Associated Press on Friday. "Taking out the speaker's supermajority is the math that has gone into that equation."
RSLC President Matt Walter said during a conference call Thursday afternoon that examples of evidence of withering Democratic support include "abysmal" approval ratings for Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and the political apparatus in the Democratic stronghold of Cook County that he says is "fading in some degree."
The Illinois Legislature likely won't come under Republican control in November, particularly after new political boundaries that were drawn by Democrats helped the party win three-fifths supermajorities in both the state House and Senate in 2012. Senate President John Cullerton currently has a comfortable cushion with 40 of the chamber's 59 members, but Madigan's veto-proof majority of 71 members is hanging on by a single vote.
But there are up to 7 House seats that Republicans hope to pick up, Durkin said Friday, including seats currently held by state Democratic Reps. Marty Moylan of Des Plaines; Sam Yingling of Grayslake; Michelle Mussman of Schaumburg; Katherine Cloonen of Kankakee; Sue Scherer of Decatur and Mike Smiddy of Hillsdale.
House Republican Organization spokesman Joe Woodward said the organization hope the committees will assist with targeted ads and mailers, and has been working with Illinois Republicans about outreach efforts for women and minorities.
There's been no financial commitment from either group yet, though state campaign finance data shows the RSLC gave more than $450,000 to state legislative races in 2012.
An infusion of money could help Republicans overcome a significant fundraising disadvantage.
Quarterly fundraising reports released this week showed roughly $5.4 million in the four Democratic party campaign accounts Madigan controls, while Durkin has access to $1.2 million.
Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said Friday that Democrats' election efforts will vary by district, but largely center around an emphasis on the party's efforts to protect working families.
"It's going to be difficult," Durkin said. "We've got to go out there and work for it."
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