The GOP plan to regain the suburbs
With Chicago reliably liberal and conservatism spreading downstate, the suburbs are a fertile and crucial battleground for political parties in Illinois.
"If the Republican party is not the party of the suburbs, we will never be the majority party in the state again. We have got to reestablish our leadership in the suburbs," said Dan Proft, a conservative radio host and former gubernatorial candidate whose Liberty Principles PAC helped finance a number of suburban campaigns.
That did not play out on Tuesday, when the suburbs with the exception of McHenry County pulled heavily for Hillary Clinton and the GOP gained just one suburban seat from the Democrats -- not surprisingly, the McHenry County spot vacated by retiring Democratic state Rep. Jack Franks of Marengo, who often voted with Republicans on key issues.
But it wasn't always that way. In the 1990s DuPage County was the GOP epicenter as the home of state Senate President James "Pate" Philip and House Speaker Lee Daniels.
Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider of Bartlett says with population shifting from Chicago out to the suburbs, the GOP's mission must be to "identify those folks who've traditionally voted Democratic and explain why we'd like them to be Republican."
The GOP's focus needs to be "getting back to basics" and getting people to sign on to the message "Democrats created a lot of the mess that we are in," said former Illinois GOP Chair Pat Brady of St. Charles, a political strategist.
Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner has jumped in by using his personal wealth to bankroll campaigns against the Democrats and the deep coffers controlled by Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan. Rauner's success in the suburbs was not as great as downstate, where Republicans gained three more House seats and two in the Senate.
But Democrats maintain a strong majority in the legislature. Rauner's now said to be focusing on a gubernatorial election in 2018 and redistricting -- which is controlled by the majority party -- after the 2020 census.
"The addition of Rauner and his campaign team are night and day, resource wise and putting together firepower and the ability to know how to win," Brady said.