Cross considers statewide office, could leave leadership
A month after declining a run for state attorney general and saying he was committed to his current job, Illinois House Republican Leader Tom Cross of Oswego told fellow GOP lawmakers Wednesday he's considering running for a statewide office.
Cross wants to stay in the leadership job through at least October and held a conference call with fellow Republicans to talk about the transition.
His entrance into a statewide race has already sparked bids to replace him as leader, an important contest for Illinois House Republicans who lost lots of ground in the suburbs in 2012.
Cross didn't say what he might run for, but other lawmakers say he's poised to run for Illinois treasurer.
"As I consider the challenge of serving Illinois at a higher level, I did ask my colleagues in the House Republican Caucus to begin the process of a succession plan so that a new leader may be chosen in preparation for the 2014 elections," Cross said in a statement, saying he'll announce plans within the next two weeks.
The House Republican leader is tasked with raising money and coordinating campaigns in an effort to both pick up -- and save -- members. House lawmakers run for office every two years.
State Rep. Jim Durkin, a Western Springs Republican, is the main suburban candidate to replace Cross as leader. The other main candidate, Durkin said, will be state Rep. Raymond Poe, a Springfield Republican.
"I don't think it will be a regional vote," Durkin said. "I think it will be a question of who will raise the money."
The House Republican leader can carry a lot of weight with members on policy. Durkin and Poe voted different ways on a package of public pension reforms backed by House Speaker Michael Madigan, for example, so Republicans' choice of a new leader could have implications for the state's biggest financial debate.
Cross' exploration of a bid for attorney general ended when Democrat Lisa Madigan announced she'd run for re-election. Last month, Cross said he'd abandon that bid and focus on being leader of the Republican caucus.
"I remain committed to the Illinois House Republican Caucus to provide leadership and information regarding the tough issues we face in this state while continuing to raise money and recruit candidates for the upcoming election," he said in a statement then.
Cross is getting support for the move from other top Republicans.
"I think he could help the top of the ticket," said state Sen. Matt Murphy, a Palatine Republican. "We've got to put our best foot forward across the board.
If he runs for treasurer, Cross would join DuPage County Auditor Bob Grogan, former DuPage County Board Chairman Bob Schillerstrom and Michael Scott Carter of Chicago in the race for the Republican nomination.
Schillerstrom wasn't immediately available for comment, and Grogan said last week that Cross' entrance into the race wouldn't affect his plans.