Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Can State GOP get past Froehlich-Dillard ?

Revised and links added on Tuesday at 10:45 am

Yesterday’s double hit taken by the State GOP leadership would, for a normal political party, be a downer. One, State Rep. Froehlich’s [D-Schaumburg] defection to the Dems can’t be viewed as a plus to a Republican State House that was already down by a net seven seats to the Dems. Two, having your, until recently, DuPage Connty Republican Chairman [the most important Republican County] and current State Senator, Kirk Dillard, place himself in an ad praising Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama can’t be reassuring to any of the Republican presidential candidates. That is especially true for Senator McCain, who has been “endorsed,” by Senator Dillard.

State GOP leaders? Who would lay claim to or at least be unable to deny that title? It would seem as if the ruling triumvirate would now be made up of State House GOP leader Tom Cross, State Senate Republican leader Frank Watson and State GOP Chairman Andy McKenna, Jr.

Cross, Watson and McKenna have the State GOP leadership positions, by default. Former Speaker Hastert is thought to be ready to announce in August, if not sooner, that he will not seek re-election to his House seat. 10th CD Congressman Mark Kirk [Highland Park], once thought to be a wunderkind of the Illinois Republican Congressional delegation, now is praying that he can hold onto his seat in 2008. Freshman Cong. Roskam [Wheaton], having won by only two percent, is in no position to lay claim to the title of Party Leader. Longtime Cong. LaHood [Peoria] appears to be in search of an exit strategy, not a leadership position. Illinois’ RNC honcho and friend of Rove, Bob Kjellander, is badly wounded from his closeness to, if not involvement with, those who have been indicted or are being investigated and thus he hopes he can quietly make it through ’08, without taking any additional hits.

But, because the Illinois GOP Party’s motto has to be, “Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me,” who knows what the Party leaders really felt. Perhaps just another day at the office—just like the Bears dealing yet again with Tank Johnson’s continued run-ins with the Law. However, for the Bears, their solution was simple: sever the infringing team member. For the Illinois GOP leaders, they could, at most, mumble some words mildly critical of Froehlich and Dillard and hope this would be at most, a two-day story.

And, they might make it. Taking them in reverse order, Senator Dillard is known as the “Let’s make a deal,” guy in Illinois politics. A few years back he was accused by a senate colleague, or two, of selling his caucus down the river for a few shekels from the Governor for his District when Blagojevich needed a few Republican votes. Indeed, Sun-Times columnist Lynn Sweet told Hardball’s Chris Matthews last night, “Look, it is a good investment for him [Dillard] because no matter what happens, Barack Obama at the least is going to be a Senator from Illinois and he is going to have one big chit owed to a Republican State Senator.”

In short, the Obama ad can be viewed as just another case of Dillard cutting a deal for himself at the expense of his Party. Not a plus for the State GOP, but not a major body blow-either for the State GOP or the eventual Republican Presidential Candidate.

Froehlich’s defection, on its face, is more problematic. One, unless Leader Cross wanted this to happen, there is the organizational sloppiness from Froehlich’s accusation that he couldn’t get an appointment last week to discuss this with Cross-- but Speaker Mike Madigan found time to meet with Froehlich.

Doubtful that Cross could have turned this around, but if no other reason than PR, leaders should at least match their counterparts in being accessible to their members, especially those who are defecting.

Two, the perhaps underlying reason for the move, the previous Republican District voting for Ds can’t be comforting to the Party leaders. 2nd Term 8th CD Democratic congresswoman Bean won Froehlich’s District in 2006 by almost 20 points over her Republican opponent, McSweeney, and Democratic 6th CD congressional candidate Duckworth won it in her losing effort against Peter Roskam.

Three, with the additional seat, Democrats in the State House move to a 67-51 majority, or an 8-vote net margin. That means the Dems need pick up only four Republican votes in the over-time legislative session to get to the three fifth supra-majority needed to pass a budget, making the Republicans even less relevant than they were yesterday.

Four, over the last half year, Froehlich has blasted the state Republicans for being on the wrong side of social justice and seems relieved to no longer have to explain his ties to President Bush.

That having been said, the State GOP might reasonably be able to write off Froehlich as sui generis, i.e., a problem that exists only with Froehlich and his District.

One, people say Froehlich was a conservative, but if he was, that had changed dramatically in recent years. So, given those changing views of Paul’s, he would not be comfortable as a Republican. That is, he was not, at the core, even a moderate Republican, but increasingly a Democrat [See here]

Two, earlier this year Froehlich ran away from school vouchers-school choice [See here], even though that concept is very popular with Hispanics, an ethnic group whose growth in his District Froehlich claimed was behind his decision to embrace in-state tuition and drivers licenses for illegal immigrants. In contrast, Hispanic, Democratic State Senator Martin Sandoval [Chicago], representing a substantial Hispanic population, has embraced school vouchers, which are hated, with a passion, by the teachers unions. As a former teacher, perhaps you could take the pol out of former teacher Froehlich, but not the teachers' union out of the current pol, Paul Froehlich.

Three, it has been rumored Froehlich faced, in 2008, another and more serious Republican Primary challenge due to his inability to support his caucus. Maybe Froehlich jumped before he would have been pushed, saving the Republican Party some unnecessary internal warfare.

Four, Froehlich either was differing or was soon to be differing with his party on the environment, on taxes, on education funding, on capital punishment, spending and issues of justice.

In short, maybe Froehlich was no longer a Republican who would run well with his Party, or in his District. If so, the Republican Party can say thanks to Paul for easing the transition to a new Republican in his District, one who beats Paul next Fall, assuming Paul can win his Democratic Primary.
Jeff Berkowitz, Show Host/Producer of "Public Affairs," and Executive Legal Recruiter doing legal search can be reached at JBCG@aol.com. You may watch "Public Affairs," shows with Presidential Candidates Obama, McCain, Giuliani and Cox and many other pols at www.PublicAffairsTv.com