Democrats tighten grip on General Assembly, leading to talk of GOP leadership change

2012-11-08T00:01:00Z 2012-11-26T14:04:18Z Democrats tighten grip on General Assembly, leading to talk of GOP leadership changeBy KURT ERICKSON - H&R Springfield Bureau Chief Herald-Review.com

SPRINGFIELD — A leadership change could be in the offing for shell-shocked Republicans in the General Assembly.

A day after suffering through one of their worst elections in modern times, at least one GOP lawmaker said he’s considering challenging Minority Leader Christine Radogno for control of the soon-to-be 19-member Republican caucus in the Senate.

“Obviously, it’s something that has to be addressed,” said state Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon. “We need to do a better job of delivering our message. We’ve got to restructure our party from the bottom up.”

McCarter’s potential candidacy emerged after Tuesday’s Democratic tidal wave gave Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, a 40-seat, veto-proof majority beginning in January, while House Speaker Michael Madigan saw his Democratic majority increase by seven seats to a veto-proof 71.

Along with crafting a new legislative map favoring Democratic candidates, Democrats spent more money in key races than Republicans. President Barack Obama’s success in key battleground areas of the state, such as Chicago’s suburbs and the Quad-Cities, also helped propel down-ticket Democrats to victory.

Democrat Andy Manar of Bunker Hill said his victory over Decatur Mayor Mike McElroy was because he connected with voters on issues such as school funding and job creation.

“We had a clear message,” Manar said.

For Republicans, the results call for some soul-searching, said state Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon.

“It is hard to see the positives after a night like that,” Righter said. “But this will be an opportunity for Republicans in Illinois to be reflective.”

State Rep. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, who won an open seat in the Senate, said Republicans need to retool their message, seek out younger voters and improve their get-out-the-vote efforts.

“Until that happens, we’re going to continue to have problems,” Rose said.

Unlike the discord among Senate Republicans, state Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, said he doesn’t believe a coup is in the making against House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego.

“I have not heard anything like that,” Bost said.

State Rep. Adam Brown, R-Decatur, also said he was unaware of any rumblings of discontent with Cross’ role.

Radogno spokeswoman Patty Schuh said it’s not a surprise that there is discontent after Tuesday’s GOP performance.

“I think she truly understands the situation. It is very frustrating to be in the minority,” Schuh said.

With Radogno planning to seek a third, two-year term, McCarter has three weeks to make a case for change to his fellow GOP senators. Republicans and Democrats in the Senate meet Nov. 28 to privately elect their caucus leaders.

“I could be making a lot more money if I focused on my business. If I’m going to make the sacrifice to serve in Springfield, how can I make the most impact?” McCarter said. “We’ve got to be more aggressive.”

State Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, doesn’t see change looming in the Senate Republican leadership.

“We’re a team,” Brady said. “We went into this as a team. There’s no question we’re a little shell-shocked right now, but we were tremendously outspent and egregiously out-mapped.”

kurt.erickson@lee.net|782-4043

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