TAMPA -- Illinois delegates used Monday's largely unscheduled day at the Republican National Convention to regroup and outline a focus on working more closely than ever for the Nov. 6 election and beyond.
Party officials say they're not only cognizant of the mistakes of the past, but they have learned from them.
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"As long as I'm in this position, the person who did more for this party in terms of unity is (state Sen.) Kirk Dillard," said Illinois GOP Chair Pat Brady, of St. Charles, referring to the Hinsdale Republican's narrow 2010 gubernatorial primary loss to fellow state Sen. Bill Brady.
"It's tough to lose an election by 193 votes, but in the next day and next week, Dillard carried himself with such dignity and class, (saying) let's get behind Bill Brady," said Pat Brady. The two are not related.
That kind of unity, Brady said, is top on the Republican Party's agenda, as the Illinois GOP works to pick up seats with the help of the suburbs.
The party leaders were speaking at a breakfast meeting of the Illinois Republican delegation Monday, a day when most official convention events were canceled because of Tropical Storm Isaac.
Problems like party divisions and too-crowded primary fields sometimes weighed down the state GOP in the past, party leaders said.
Former Gov. Jim Edgar called on the party to "start regaining the state of Illinois," predicting Democratic President Barack Obama is not going to do as well in his home state as he did in 2008.
"Gov. (Pat) Quinn is not the most popular governor. Democrats don't have a lot of momentum in this state. We need to take care of that," Edgar said.
Illinois House Republican Leader Tom Cross, of Oswego, also speaking at the delegation breakfast, said Republicans have an opportunity to make headway this fall.
"Don't take that lightly," he said.
The pickup of Republican seats, he said, "sets the stage for 2014."