Scott Walker gets early boost from top state Republican
Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs has endorsed Scott Walker for president, giving the badger state governor an early backer with statewide pull here.
Durkin, among the first top Republicans in Illinois to back a candidate, said he picked Walker because he respects the governor's work in Wisconsin and ability to win big statewide races there that became nationally watched campaigns.
"I've seen him battle-tested more than anyone," Durkin said.
Walker is set to headline a fundraiser for Durkin in Chicago tonight.
Illinois' primary election isn't until March 15 next year, but early backing from big-name Republicans can help presidential hopefuls get the support they need to both win votes and get their delegates on the state's ballot.
Asked if Durkin's statewide network of connections will help with that, he said his first priority will be helping state House Republicans win election in 2016.
"I can walk and chew gum at the same time, but my first priority is to the House Republicans," Durkin said.
Many top Illinois GOP leaders haven't endorsed in the race yet, making Durkin's pick stand out. U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Channahon has backed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
Durkin said he won't pressure other House Republicans to back Walker. For example, state Rep. Ed Sullivan of Mundelein has said he's behind Ohio Gov. John Kasich.