SPRINGFIELD - When Tom Cross announced to his Illinois House Republican caucus Wednesday he's considering a 2014 bid for State Treasurer, the word from Cross aides was, "We're getting Bob Grogan out of the race, don't worry. He'll be out by 3:30 PM today."
Word is however, that despite Cross' boast/threat to Grogan about his campaign funds and his willingness to spend them in the primary, the Cross-Grogan face-to-face Wednesday afternoon ended at 3:09 PM, with Grogan still in the race. Meaning: Cross will face the DuPage County Auditor in a GOP primary IF he decides to seek the nomination. But with growing endorsements for the congenial Grogan, it may be tougher than he thinks.
In the meantime, the "buzz" about who the next Republican House Leader will be includes three names: state reps Raymond Poe (Springfield), Jim Durkin (Western Springs) and Dwight Kay (Glen Carbon).
Poe, 69, has been in the Illinois House since 1995. He's a farmer and a popular catering business owner. Poe's URF Lifetime Scorecard is a mediocre "66" - mostly because he votes to protect his Springfield constituents that are public sector union employees and their teachers union colleagues. As a result, it is difficult to know how he would handle the pension crisis as minority leader. It's pretty certain it won't be in the same direction as Wisconsin has gone.
Durkin, 52, (Western Springs) started in the House in 1993 and stayed until he challenged and lost to U.S. Senator Dick Durbin in 2002. He returned to the House in 2006, and mentioned early on his interest in gthe AG seat if Madigan ever decided to run for governor. He's also been vocal about his disappointment that Cross expressed similar interest. Durkin's URF Lifetime score of 64. He made a name for himself during the Blagojevich impeachment hearings, and doesn't hesitate to speak his mind on the House floor, normally with a calming, non-confrontational persona.
Kay, 66, (Glen Carbon) has been in the Illinois House since 2011. For 40 years he worked at Cassen Trucking, ending up an executive after working his way up through the company. Kay is a social and fiscal conservative, and has a URF Lifetime score of 90. Conservative House members now look to Kay for leadership. His most obvious weakness is the short time he's been in the General Assembly as well as the demands on his time that his reelection could make given that he's in a swing district.
With the major amount of political office shifting over the past two years, the number of other possible leaders has dwindled. Mike Connelly and Chapin Rose are now in the Illinois Senate. Conservative House member Pam Roth, Rich Morthland and Paul Evans are gone, leaving Jeanne Ives, Tom Morrison and Joe Sosnowski as well as the more experienced David Reis. Other dependable conservative veterans that may not be interested in leadership are Patti Bellock and Renee Kosel.