Could Franks' departure open doors for Republicans?
Gov. Bruce Rauner said during a visit to Wheeling on Monday he is not commenting on how state Rep. Jack Franks' decision to leave the legislature will affect budget talks or his agenda, but fellow Republicans in the suburbs are seeing it as an opportunity to shrink Democrats' majority in the General Assembly.
State Sen. Matt Murphy, a Palatine Republican, said the GOP could gain a seat in the Illinois House, cutting into the Democrats' veto-proof majority.
"I think we have to be looking to gain seats wherever we can," Murphy said after a roundtable discussion with Rauner and small business leaders at Keats Manufacturing, a metal stamping and wire forming company in Wheeling. "That McHenry County district is one that has a lot of Republican support in it, so we should be looking to pick it up."
Franks, a Democrat from Marengo, announced Sunday he won't seek a 10th term representing the 63rd House District in the state legislature and instead is running to become the McHenry County Board's first elected chairman.
Franks has been known to vote against his Democratic colleagues on budgetary and taxing issues, sometimes resulting in their veto-proof majority failing to hold up.
Murphy doesn't think Franks' decision to leave the General Assembly after his current term will affect the way he votes or current talks.
"In the past he's kind of held out against some of the Democrats' proposals and I don't see why that would change," Murphy said. "He's going to be on the ballot in November in a different capacity. I would be surprised if he changes now."
Franks will face Republican county board member Michael Walkup of Crystal Lake in the race to become McHenry County's first elected chairman. Until this year, the chairman had always been a sitting board member appointed to the post by the rest of the board. But voters passed a proposal by referendum in 2014 making it an elected office.
McHenry County Democratic Party Chairman Mike Bissett said the party will choose a candidate to run for Franks' House seat through an open process. That process likely won't begin until after Memorial Day, and the party hopes to have a candidate in place by the end of June.
The ideal candidate wouldn't need to be a "carbon copy of Franks," Bisset said, but he or she should have some of the same qualities.
"The most important thing is establishing trust and credibility with voters," he said. "They could be more or less conservative than Jack Franks, as long as the person is an advocate for the citizen."