Republican leaders talk mail-in voting push, gaining suburban votes at Illinois State Fair

Craig Wall Image
Thursday, August 17, 2023
Republican leaders talk early voting, suburban support at State Fair
Republicans put a focus on issues such as the economy and crime, as well as recruiting people to run for office.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WLS) -- Illinois Republicans talked about taking back the suburbs as they gathered for their day at the Illinois State Fair Thursday.

However, it is what they did want to talk about that was perhaps most telling.

One of the strategies of Republican leaders clearly seems to be to avoid talking about Donald Trump, for now. The Trump factor is seen as a potential drag on the party, at least in the Chicago suburbs.

"Let's focus on the issues we care about the most," Illinois House of Representatives Republican minority leader Tony McCombie said.

Illinois Republicans rallied in Springfield as they look with hope to the 2024 election cycle.

They put a focus on issues such as the economy and crime, as well as recruiting people to run for office. They also called for a new mindset to embrace early voting.

"Because the political party that votes for weeks and months will mathematically beat the party that only votes for one day," said Don Tracy, Illinois Republican Party Chairman.

Even though Republicans are the super minority in both the Illinois House and Senate, Drew McKissick, the co-chair of the Republican National Committee and the rally's keynote speaker, offered encouragement.

"Nothing is permanent in politics," McKissick said. "Victory is not permanent. Defeat is not permanent."

Donald Trump was also a factor at the fair as he still enjoys a lot of support in some parts of the state. However, party leaders avoided even mentioning him until asked to address his indictments, and whether Trump might hurt other candidates on ballots.

"Listen, I'm not gonna think about hypotheticals and what could happen," Illinois Representative Darin LaHood said. "We're gonna have a process. That's where we have a wide open primary. We're gonna have a great set of candidates running."

Former Republican candidate for Illinois Governor, Darren Bailey, who's now running for Congress against incumbent Mike Bost downstate, remains a staunch Trump supporter.

"President Trump is the only choice to get this nation turned around. Period," Bailey said.

Republicans held their annual breakfast meeting Thursday, where navigating the abortion issue was another touchy topic.

"In Illinois, we're not talking about life or choice. We're talking about extremes," McCombie said. "We're talking about late term abortions. We're talking about repealing parental notification. We're talking about taxpayer funding. We're not talking about choice or life in Illinois.

Republicans know they have their work cut out for them next year. Now, it's a matter of motivating the faithful to do the hard work.

But, the most recent indictment against Trump is also a key issue for Democrats, especially as he maintains a sizeable lead in the polls over his Republican rivals.