Illinois politicians have provided some compelling storylines this election cycle. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. faced a contentious primary battle.
At a GOP luncheon in Bloomington, Ill., state Sen. Kyle McCarter, who is interested in running for the open seat, told attendees that Johnson’s retirement “is not right.”
“You know what’s really insulting about this? It didn’t just happen. There was talk of this happening a year ago, and it’s a real insult to the people,” the Republican state lawmaker said, according to the News-Gazette.
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) said Johnson’s retirement was “a complete surprise to me.”
Despite that setback, Roskam said Illinois Republicans have rallied in Kirk’s absence and that the party is aggressively pushing back against Democrats in the competitive House contests.
Asked if he was embarrassed by the attention paid to Illinois in recent years, from the theatrical trial of Blagojevich to Kirk’s embellishment of his military credentials during his Senate campaign, Roskam said he wasn’t.
“Illinois [is] a great state with tons of things going for it,” he said. “It’s got a transportation system that is something to be celebrated and invested in. It’s got huge [agricultural] interest, big financial services, big manufacturing. It’s a state with a great heritage that just has to live up to that heritage and that potential.”
For Chicago, Obama’s re-election campaign headquarters there has made the city an even bigger symbol of rough-and-tumble politics for national Republicans. The GOP also refers to the city led by Mayor Rahm Emanuel as a hub for liberal policies that have contributed to a suffering economy. But while Obama did serve in the state Legislature and represented Illinois in the Senate before ascending to the White House, he rarely touches on those roots and even irked his former colleagues last month when his administration did not grant disaster zone status to downstate counties suffering from tornado damage.
Nevertheless, Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky said, “I don’t know that there’s an expectation that the president would focus especially on Illinois.
“People are happy with the president, that incident notwithstanding,” she added.
Schakowsky also called Illinois “the land of opportunity for Democrats” this election cycle and said the GOP’s success there in 2010 was “representative more of a national wave than anything else.”
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