State GOP hopes to win control of Illinois House

September 17, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Not only are Illinois Republicans trying to increase their numbers in the state house of representatives, they also have a mission to oust the most powerful Democrat in Springfield. And, GOP leaders are convinced they can win a majority, one vulnerable seat at a time.

If State Representative Mark Walker does not win re-election in November, it won't be because he hasn't knocked on enough doors.

"Many of the people I talked to have never talked to a politician at their front door, and I've talked to now 15,000 of them, roughly. They're just surprised that someone cares and someone asks," said Walker.

First-termer Walker has a big blue target on his back. He is one of the Democratic lawmakers the Republican party believes it can defeat this year.

Walker's opponent is David Harris, who previously served in the state legislature during the 1980s, and is convinced the northwest suburban 66th District is primed to return to its Republican roots.

"The district itself is one that fits for a Republican legislator versus a Democrat legislator if you just look at the numbers," Harris said.

"The most important thing that we've done is that we've recruited candidates that have a sense of what's going on in this state's right or wrong," said House Minority Leader Tom Cross.

Cross is convinced that if Illinois Republicans -- currently with 48 votes to the Democrats 70 -- can win 12 seats (six in the Chicago suburbs and six downstate) it would give the GOP a 60-58 majority.

If that happens, Cross would become the speaker of the house, instead of Democrat Michael Madigan, who has held the job for 25 of the last 27 years.

"The only way to remove Mike Madigan as speaker is to not elect Democrat lawmakers," Cross said.

Walker is fully aware of what's being called "the Madigan factor" in close legislative races this year. He wants it known that he is no "yes man" for the controversial speaker.

"If they want to attack Mike Madigan they should go to directly to attack Mike Madigan. I am not that target. I voted against Madigan 70 times on controversial bills in this session and even more than Tom Cross, the Republican leader, did," said Walker.

A spokesman for House Speaker Madigan rejected the Republican math. He predicted Democrats would not lose every contested seat, and he said Republicans could lose some of the seats they believe are safe.

The last time the Republicans controlled the Illinois House was after the 1994 mid-term elections. They lost control again after 1996.

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