SPRINGFIELD — Illinois Republicans say the outcome of Tuesday’s special election in Massachusetts shows they have an excellent chance of breaking the Democratic stranglehold on Illinois politics.
Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady said the parallels between Scott Brown’s come-from-behind win in Massachusetts and the political scene in Illinois could propel Republican front-runner Mark Kirk to victory in the race to fill President Barack Obama’s old U.S. Senate seat.
A key factor in helping Republicans gain traction in Illinois is the condition of the state budget after eight years of single-party control, Brady said. In addition, corruption under former Gov. Rod Blagojevich could help push voters to Republican candidates.
“The political environment is worse here,” Brady said. “We have a state that has been managed terribly.”
Top Illinois Democrats said the outcome of the vote in Massachusetts is more a reflection of voter discontent in general, not against any one particular party.
“The outcome in Massachusetts shows that regardless of party, people are angry with the status quo,” U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias said. “They are tired of insiders controlling how Washington works and fed up with those who take corporate PAC and federal lobbyist money and vote their way.”
Giannoulias, the state treasurer, is among four Democrats vying to advance to the November general election. Kirk is among six vying for the GOP nomination.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said it is clear voters in Massachusetts were frustrated with Congress’ performance in dealing with health care.
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“I understand the shortcomings of our effort to reform health care,” Durbin said in a speech Wednesday on the Senate floor. “I’m humble enough to realize that even our best work may not be perfect and may need to be changed in the future.”
Durbin added that “the lesson for Massachusetts is the American people are expecting responsible results in Washington. We have to deliver them. But to do it, we need a bipartisan approach.”
Brady, speaking to reporters on a conference call Wednesday, said Republican momentum could carry beyond Kirk’s Senate race, trickling into the Illinois governor’s race and into congressional races.
In particular, he pointed to the 11th Congressional District, where freshman U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson of Crete will face off in November against the winner of a four-way Republican primary race.
Brady said the 11th district is filled with swing voters who could push Halvorson out of office because of discontent with Congress.
“A lot of people are angry,” Brady said.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Kirk Dillard said the GOP victory in Massachusetts, along with recent wins in Virginia and New Jersey, “are clear signs the voters are tired of Democratic policies in Washington and want change.”
Another Republican candidate for governor, Dan Proft of Wheaton, said the Massachusetts victory shows momentum favors the GOP.
“Elections have consequences, and Scott Brown’s election to the Senate from a traditionally Democrat state has sent a powerful message to the Democrat-controlled Congress,” Proft said.
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