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Illinois Republicans Try to Gain Traction

Illinois Republican Party

When Illinois voters mark their ballots next month – President Obama will be getting a lot of the attention.
But Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady will have his eye further down the ticket. Races like the 55th and 56th districts.

EXTRA: Legislative Maps of Illinois

Brady wants those candidates in those districts to be the rising stars of Illinois Republicans. And the reason he knows them so well  is because Democrats control the House by six seats and the Senate by six seats. Both sides agree that’s not much separation between which party has the majority. Two years ago,  the GOP had some success when Republicans did well across the country and they picked up some Illinois legislative seats.
Brady’s hoping to continue that trend and get Illinois Republicans in the majority. He says the way to do that  is by focusing on one person.

"If you vote for any Democrat in this state, particularly in the House of Representatives, because, remember, it’s the House members that elect the Speaker, you’re in effect, voting for more Mike Madigan." -Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady

Candidate Susan Sweeneysays the message about House Speaker Michael Madigan  resonates in her district.

"The reason why it’s so challenging is because I know that I’m up against hundreds of thousands of dollars that are gonna be put in by the Michael Madigan machine." -Susan Sweeney, Republican Candidate

Sweeney is the Republican in an open race in Illinois’ 55th House District in Chicago’s Northwest suburbs.
She recently attended a debate for candidates running for the state legislature. Finding a seat wasn’t too hard.

Just 37 people showed up to the O’Hare Radisson Hotel’s small banquet room for the debate. And that, for a race that’s one of the more competitive, attracting a lot of money from both political parties. During the debate, Sweeney emphasized her business experience as a former IBM employee and the importance of her family.

"My son has gone off to college recently. When he comes back, will he be able to get a job here? And that’s why I’m running for state representative." -Susan Sweeney

Sweeney is running against Democrat Marty Moylan, currently the mayor of Des Plaines. She says there are some factors working against her. Like the new legislative boundaries, which Republicans say were drawn by Democrats to make it harder on the GOP. Sweeney’s running in a district that’s historically been held by a Republican.

So even if she wins, it does not get the GOP any closer to taking those six seats

Chris Mooney teaches political science at the University of Illinois Springfield. He says it’s “not impossible” for Republicans to gain the majority in the Illinois House, but it’s hard when a lot of voters can’t even name the candidates further down the ballot.

"Keep hope alive. You know, that’s a Chicago theme, right? And what are they gonna do? Give up? They’ve got a better chance of doing something important in 2014 than they do in 2012. 2014 is when the governor, attorney general, and other statewide races are up for election." -political scientist Chris Mooney

In the meantime, Illinois Democrats say the Republicans will have to try something new if they want more power in Springfield. A spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan says Republicans have tried again and again to campaign on the platform of firing Madigan, and that has not worked out so well. Madigan has been Speaker for nearly 30 years.