Springfield, IL – Former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar says the Republican Party in the state missed its chance for a comeback in last week's elections.
The governor's mansion is key to a GOP resurgence in the state, Edgar told a crowd gathered in Springfield for a post election forum. He said he was surprised that Bill Brady could not pull off the victory.
Brady ran a much more disciplined campaign than incumbent Democrat Pat Quinn, Edgar said. But the party needs to learn that its statewide candidates must be moderates. Ultimately, he said, Brady lost because he was too conservative.
"The fact that we did not win the governorship I think long-term has slowed down the comeback of the Republican party," Edgar said. "I mean I thought 'til 11:35 the Republican Party was back. Unfortunately, I think the Republican Party's not back."
The party isn't dead in the state. Republicans won two statewide offices and a U.S. Senate seat, and gained seats in the U.S. Congress and in the state General Assembly. And the GOP will have another chance in four years to make gains.
But, Edgar said, given national trends and Illinois' fiscal mess, this should have been the year for Republicans to make big gains.
"I had thought for several years this was going to be the Republican year," he said. "It wasn't just after the last election; I thought Rod Blagojevich was going be a plus for us. And I think though unfortunately for the Republicans we kind of missed our opportunity."
Edgar said it will be even harder for the GOP to make gains in the future, since Democrats have nearly unencumbered power in the state to draw the new legislative districts to their advantage.