Illinois Republicans head to inauguration with more unity than before

 
 
Updated 1/19/2017 5:40 PM
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  • From left, Republican National Committeeman Richard Porter of Winnetka, Christina and Ron Gidwitz of Chicago and Illinois GOP Chairman Tim Schneider of Bartlett posed for a photo at an inauguration reception in Washington.

    From left, Republican National Committeeman Richard Porter of Winnetka, Christina and Ron Gidwitz of Chicago and Illinois GOP Chairman Tim Schneider of Bartlett posed for a photo at an inauguration reception in Washington. Courtesy of Richard Porter

Even before the Nov. 8 election, Joe Folisi had booked a hotel and flight for Friday's inauguration in Washington.

"I know by some experience how hard it can be. I figured I'd do it ahead of time," said Folisi, of Schaumburg. He'd attended past inaugurations for Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush and said if Democrat Hillary Clinton had won, he'd simply cancel.

But for Folisi, it was a long road to supporting President-elect Donald Trump. The Schaumburg Township GOP chairman first was on board with the campaign of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and then, after Bush dropped out of the 2016 GOP primary, with Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Now, he says, he's in a place of acceptance.

Trump "is going to be our president," he said. "I like his policies, though I don't know that he always articulates them the right way. But I agree with a lot of his ideas on immigration, taxes and bringing jobs back to the country."

Folisi's not alone in his emotional transition in recent months, or his support for Trump, as one of several hundred Illinois Republicans in Washington for inaugural festivities this week. Many, particularly from the independent voting suburbs, had distanced themselves from Trump before the election, fearing Trump's candidacy would hurt local Republicans on the ballot.

"I would say absolutely he was unconventional and there were many people who didn't want to get into things that way," said Illinois GOP Chairman Tim Schneider of Bartlett. However, "there's a significant difference in attitudes before and now."

Activities for the Illinois delegation in Washington included a Wednesday evening dinner at Turkish restaurant Agora, a reception hosted by U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam of Wheaton Thursday afternoon at his Capitol office, and the Illinois State Society Inaugural Heartland Ball Thursday evening at the Marriott Marquis Hotel.

Some attendees, including Schneider, Republican National Committeeman Richard Porter of Winnetka, and Illinois Trump Victory finance chairman Ron Gidwitz of Chicago, also went to a Republican National Committee meeting where Michigan's Ronna Romney McDaniel was elected chairwoman. They went to a meeting Wednesday with Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who reiterated Trump's plans to move quickly on his priorities.

Pence told the group, "After all the parties and celebration, buckle up!" Porter said.

"Mike Pence is well-known in Illinois GOP circles and is widely respected," said Porter, who cited "excitement" over the new administration as the overriding emotion among suburban Republicans.

"Those fellow party members who did not support Trump in his elections are now cautiously optimistic," he said.

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