Illinois Review welcomes its newest contributor: Robert Windon
On Nov. 5, 2013 three Republican members of the Illinois House of Representatives broke with the rest of their caucus and voted in favor of SB10, which legalized same sex marriage. During the days, weeks, and months that followed many in and outside of the party pontificated about the future of these three within the GOP.
One, former Minority Leader, Tom Cross had already announced he was not running for re-election to his House seat and eventually won the Republican nomination for State Treasurer. His vote for SB10 never became a campaign issue and he won by a margin of 57-42. The other two, Ron Sandack (81st) and Ed Sullivan Jr. (51st) did run for re-election to their House seats and ended up in very public primary battles. In fact, both challengers received support from independent PACs. Unlike for Cross, their votes for SB10 became a major campaign issue. In the end, Sandack narrowly won re-election and Sullivan did so comfortably.
There were, undoubtedly, numerous factors that led to all three election results. But what is clear, contrary to what many thought, Republican voters did not consider their support for same sex marriage a disqualifier for holding public office. Presently there is considerable disagreement about how much support there is for same sex marriage among Republicans and whether that support will grow in the future. But it seems fairly clear that Illinois Republican voters are not as concerned about this issue as party leadership has been. Voters are looking for leaders who will fight for smaller government and fiscally conservative principles to get Illinois out of its financial mess.
This Saturday, May 17, the State Central Committee will elect the next party Chairman, which seems a lock to be Cook County Commissioner Tim Schneider. They will also begin setting the direction of the party for the next two years. While it is leadership’s job to set the direction of an organization, there are times when leadership needs to listen to their membership before setting that direction. Will the state leadership listen to the voters? Only time will tell.