The two days of partisan political events during the Illinois State Fair are like miniature, stripped-down, informal versions of national political conventions. They serve as a sort of kick-off to our fall campaign season, so they are usually closely watched by reporters who cover campaigns and by insiders.

The ongoing uproar over Senator Darren Bailey’s 2017 claim that the Holocaust “doesn’t even compare on a shadow” to the lives lost to abortion reminded me of a scene in an old movie called A Bronx Tale.

One of the biggest unsung winners in the fight for control of the Democratic Party of Illinois is House Speaker Chris Welch.

During a sometimes-fiery interview last week, House Speaker Chris Welch pledged to tie House Republican candidates to the far-right top of their ticket and called House Republican Leader Jim Durkin a “failed leader.” A Durkin spokesperson, in turn, called Welch “unhinged.” It started when I asked Speaker Welch if he thought gun-law reform would play a major role in the fall campaign, which is basically just around the corner.

Ogden and Fry conducted a poll in the days leading up to former President Donald Trump’s visit to the Quincy area for a US Representative Mary Miller endorsement in late June. The poll of Republicans in the Downstate 15th Congressional District taken June 22-24 (Trump’s visit was June 25) found Representative Miller leading fellow US Representative Rodney Davis by eight points, 46-38. When undecideds were pushed to decide, Miller’s lead jumped to 10 points, 55-45. She won by fifteen points, 57.6-42.4.

The four Illinois legislative leaders did not have a spectacular primary day last week. House Speaker Chris Welch lost three incumbents to primary challengers. Senate President Don Harmon lost an appointed incumbent and an open-seat race. House Republican Leader Jim Durkin lost two incumbents and came up short in some other races. Senate GOP Leader Dan McConchie came away with one ding.

As I’ve been telling my newsletter subscribers for several weeks now, talks began in mid-May about a possible special state legislative session to address the abortion issue.

Senator Darren Bailey and House GOP Leader Jim Durkin in June 2020

“We're not the party of Trump,” Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie told an interviewer a couple of months ago. “I'm in the Republican Party and the party of Lincoln. And at the end of the day, the important thing is that we're standing up for ideas and ideals and not a personality. And that is what the Republican Party has been about for decades and what I believe we're going to be going forward.”

The Illinois Republican Party has successfully avoided being dragged into the hard-right camp at the state level for decades. Those days may be over.

The state’s political world may have been shocked, but I doubt many in that world were surprised at the level of vitriol in Representative Sam Yingling (D-Grayslake)’s press release last week which claimed he’d been “attacked” by Governor JB Pritzker. Governor Pritzker’s “offense” was endorsing Representative Yingling’s Democratic primary opponent Mary Edly-Allen in the race to replace retiring state Senator Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake).

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