Jim Dey | For Illinois GOP, it’s all over but the voting

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General election voters, as always, will have the last word. But from outward appearances, it looks like Republican primary voters selected their fall candidates as part of a collective political suicide pact.

In a election year when GOP chances are perceived to be good nationwide, Illinois Republicans on Tuesday set their statewide ticket up to be slaughtered from the top to bottom.

It’s no surprise when Republicans lose in the Democratic Land of Lincoln. After all, every statewide office and branch of government here is under Democratic control.

But even by that standard, the impending GOP drubbing will be even greater than usual.

A Republican hoping to win a statewide election must have statewide appeal.

How is Republican gubernatorial nominee Darren Bailey, a conservative downstate farmer, going to do that?

Never say never in politics. But the favored choice of a muscular plurality among six primary candidates, Bailey most likely continues to be the choice of a zealous minority in November.

At least that’s what the political commentators, including former state legislator and longtime University of Illinois Professor Jim Nowlan, assert.

“He’ll get an enthusiastic 40 percent of the vote,” Nowlan predicted.

Bailey’s true believers swear that’s wrong. They insist that their clean-in-heart-and-soul candidate will drive the evildoers from the temple.

Bailey makes that point with his own home-spun version of political fire and brimstone.

“God is not going to heal our land until we repent of our ways,” Bailey has said.

He means it. But what does that mean in terms of public policy?

Gov. J.B. Pritzker is prepared to spend millions in the coming months to give voters his version of what Bailey means.

He’ll say it means that Bailey is a strident political crackpot.

He’ll point out that Bailey had advocated that downstate Illinois secede from the state.

He’ll remind Chicagoans that Bailey describes that city as a “hellhole.” True or not, Cook County voters hate to think that’s the direction of one of the world’s greatest cities.

He’ll point out that Bailey consistently rejected the Pritzker-imposed coronavirus pandemic mandates because of Bailey’s misplaced and foolish ideas about personal liberty.

Before the primary election, Pritzker and the Democratic Governors’ Association, figuring Bailey would be the easiest Republican to beat, combined to spend many millions to boost Bailey’s candidacy.

Their psychological ploy worked. But the “bromance” ended immediately after the primary vote count was in.

Pritzker is already spending big on ads vilifying Bailey both as an individual and a candidate.

The Democrats used the same tactic, although on a reduced scale, to help Republican lawyer Tom DeVore win his party’s nomination for attorney general.

Cut from the same cloth as Bailey, DeVore will be as easy a political target for incumbent Democratic Attorney General Kwame Raoul as Bailey is for Pritzker.

Once voters start filling in the D slot at the top of the ballot, when will they stop? At secretary of state? Treasurer? Comptroller?

Republicans have influence in some regions in Illinois, particularly downstate, where Democrats have worked relentlessly over the years to alienate their one-time supporters.

But even that influence has been blunted by the legislative gerrymandering that gives Democrats permanent control of the state House and Senate.

So the die is cast. Barring the appearance of a political firestorm not currently on the horizon, it appears to be all over for the GOP but the voting.

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July 3, 2022 at 08:01AM

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