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Illinois’ new Republican Party chief sees energy, unity in party

Commissioner Timothy Schneider 15th District Cook County Board Meeting Wednesday May 21 2014. | Chandler West/For Sun-Times Media

Commissioner Timothy Schneider, 15th District, at the Cook County Board Meeting on Wednesday, May 21, 2014. | Chandler West/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 26, 2014 6:31AM

With a strong Republican gubernatorial contender who is making a popular push for term limits and more signs of party unity, the Illinois GOP is looking toward November with a glimmer in its eye.

“I haven’t seen this kind of energy in the Republican Party in nearly as long as I’ve been in it,” newly elected Illinois Republican Party Chairman Timothy Schneider says.

Schneider points to Bruce Rauner’s candidacy as invigorating Republicans statewide.

“He’s meeting with seven, eight, 10 groups a day,” Schneider said of Rauner’s campaigning. “We’ve got a number of individuals saying: ‘Hey I want to help, how can I help?’ ”

Schneider took the helm of the state’s Republican Party last week with unanimous backing.

That alone is a vivid sign the party is hitting fewer speed bumps than when controversy over same-sex marriage struck two years ago, eventually compelling the ouster of then-leader Pat Brady. Brady irked some of the more conservative members of the party, including state Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, by becoming one of the first Illinois Republicans to announce his backing of same-sex marriage.

Schneider wouldn’t talk about his own stance on the issue.

“He [Brady] had the right to do that. I don’t think I want to be distracted from the core issues that unite the Republican Party in November,” Schneider said.

Schneider, 58, of Bartlett, is a two-term Cook County commissioner who is running for his third term this November. He said if he wins, he will “think long and hard” if he runs again after that. It is the gubernatorial candidate for his party, after all, who is pushing to limit terms of some elected offices to eight years.

He is a product of the northwest suburbs, having grown up in unincorporated Hanover Township. He owns small businesses, including the Golf Club of Illinois in Algonquin and a touchless car wash.

Schneider said Rauner will buoy the Republican ticket on state issues, with Oberweis representing GOP interests nationally.

“Jim is going to be a very important part of our ticket. I think when you look at the situation we’re dealing with here in Illinois, the same things exist on the national level. I think the things Jim stands for are lower taxes, lower spending, better education.”

Rauner, who has excoriated Gov. Pat Quinn’s governing and budget proposals, has been hounded in recent weeks to release a plan of his own.

“They certainly need to learn of his plan, but you have to look at the fact that Quinn has had 5½-6 years to create and implement his plan. And look at what we have in response to that,” Schneider said. “My guess is (Rauner) will be letting people know about his plan here in the coming months.”

Rauner has gone on the offensive, ordering up robocalls that criticize plans to raise taxes in Chicago as well as Quinn’s proposal to make permanent an income tax increase. In turn, Quinn’s campaign — as well as editorial boards — have lambasted Rauner in recent days for failing to offer any alternative plan.

For their part, Democrats, too, are busy working to draw their voters to the polls in November including by pushing to add ballot questions about instituting a “millionaire’s tax” as well as a question on raising the minimum wage. The two proposals had Republican lawmakers last week screaming that Democrats were crowding the ballot in a political attempt to draw their voters to the polls.

“I would encourage all voters to vote all the time,” Madigan said on the House floor. “Voters make a judgment to vote . . . for a variety of reasons.”

Still, Schneider said he was confident that come next year, a Republican would live in the executive mansion for the first time since former Gov. George Ryan.

“I think the state GOP is energized and excited to be in the position where we’re at,” Schneider said. “Pat Quinn and Mike Madigan have nothing but failed policies. That perches us on the threshold of a great victory in November.”

Contributing: Brian Slodysko


Twitter: @natashakorecki

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