As Trump comes to town, which suburban Republicans will join the bandwagon?

  • Candidate Donald Trump visited Chicago in 2016 and comes again Monday for a speech before the International Association of Chiefs of Police and a noon fundraiser.

    Candidate Donald Trump visited Chicago in 2016 and comes again Monday for a speech before the International Association of Chiefs of Police and a noon fundraiser. Daily Herald File Photo

  • David McSweeney

    David McSweeney

  • Allen Skillicorn

    Allen Skillicorn

  • Dan McConchie

    Dan McConchie

  • Jeanne Ives

    Jeanne Ives

 
 
Updated 10/26/2019 4:14 PM

When President Donald Trump whirls into Chicago on Monday, don't expect a posse of suburban Republican lawmakers along for the ride.

The fall veto session begins in Springfield -- conflicting with the president's speech before the International Association of Chiefs of Police Monday morning and a noon fundraiser.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

For some lawmakers, the timing might be heaven-sent in a blue state where standing too close to their party's fiery standard-bearer could burn moderate GOP candidates come 2020.

Republicans "in the suburbs are in somewhat of a difficult spot in the general election dealing with the president," former Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady of St. Charles said.

Some normally easy-to-reach Republican state representatives and senators didn't return calls asking if they endorse Trump's reelection or were buying tickets for the fundraising luncheon Monday starting at $2,800 a person.

But Sen. Dan McConchie, a conservative Hawthorn Woods Republican, said he would be in Springfield during Trump's Chicago visit. When asked if he supported Trump's reelection, McConchie said, "No comment."

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Rep. Allen Skillicorn of East Dundee, however, was all in.

"Most politicians make promises with no intention to actually fulfill them," Skillicorn said. "President Donald Trump is different. He has delivered on most of his promises. I'm confident his popularity has gone up in the suburbs versus 2016."

State Sen. Jim Oberweis of Sugar Grove said he supports Trump's reelection but is not attending Monday's events.

Trump's Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton won Illinois by 17 percentage points in 2016 and carried Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake and Will counties, but not McHenry.

That's no surprise in Democratic Cook, but the collar counties have swayed blue and red in presidential elections. President Barack Obama, a Democrat from Chicago, won all but McHenry County in 2012 after sweeping the collars in 2008. Republican President George W. Bush won the collar counties in 2000 and 2004.

The dilemma for Republicans in suburban districts is this: Criticize Trump and you could be primaried by a conservative who agrees with his push to build a wall at the Mexican border or other issues. Endorse Trump and it could be tough going in the general election given a possible impeachment proceeding over whether he pressured Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"If they're looking at a general election in a swing district, people need to be really careful how they embrace (Trump)," former Illinois Republican Senate Leader Christine Radogno said.

Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider of Bartlett, who will be attending on Monday, was optimistic local Republicans "will support the president at almost a 95 percent rate."

Conservative state Rep. David McSweeney of Barrington Hills intends to back the president over any possible Democratic nominee, but he won't be at Monday's Trump events.

"I agree with President Trump on cutting taxes and deregulation. I don't agree with him on everything. For example, I have some disagreements with him on trade and foreign policy," McSweeney said, clarifying he opposes the president's abrupt decision to pull troops from the Kurdish occupied area of Syria.

Typically when presidents visit, they're surrounded by top party officials such as governors, senators and congressional representatives.

That won't happen this week with Illinois' Democratic governor, U.S. senators and suburban House members, although former state Rep. Jeanne Ives of Wheaton hopes to change some of that party balance.

Republican Ives, of Wheaton, who is running in the 6th Congressional District against first-term U.S. Rep. Sean Casten, supports Trump's reelection but has no plans to go to his events on Monday. Asked about grading his job so far, "it depends on the policy or issue," said Ives, who ran for governor in 2018.

Trump might not be the only choice for Illinois voters in the March primary. Former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh of Mundelein is running for the Republican nomination, although with just $115,000 in his coffers it's a long shot, said Republican strategist Aaron Del Mar.

The Palatine Township Republican committeeman, a friend of Walsh's, is not only solidly in the Trump camp, but he's selling tickets for the fundraiser.

"I'm not a 100 percent for everything the president says," Del Mar said.

"But I like his impact on our lives. My 401(k) is solid. (Voters) may not like the antics and the tweeting, but they like the policies because he's doing what he said he was going to do, for better or for worse."

However, Republican state Sen. Don DeWitte of St. Charles was reserving comment. "There are a lot of loose ends regarding what is going on in Washington, and I'm watching those very carefully," DeWitte said, citing foreign policy, the potential impeachment, and the "revolving" door with White House staff and cabinet members.

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