September 27, 2022

Even in victory, Republicans have a lot to at stake

Party primaries aren’t always based in logic. Republicans aren’t always known to make the most responsible decisions in nominating electable candidates for a General Election. Democrats are known to vote with their progressive hearts and ignore moderates who can appeal to a wide swath of voters in November.

Republicans find themselves in a battle for the heart of what their party is and will be in the post-Trump era. It isn’t just a Washington talking point, it’s impacting races right here at home. Republicans can conceivably flip four congressional seats this fall that are currently held by Democrats but are at risk of nominating candidates that have little to no chance of winning in November.

In the 6th District, which covers portions of Cook and DuPage counties including Orland Park, Burr Ridge, Downers Grove, and a portion of Elmhurst, either incumbent U.S. Rep. Sean Casten (D-Orland Park) or U.S. Rep. Marie Newman (D-LaGrange) will advance out of the Democratic primary. Six Republicans will appear on the June 28 ballot. Among them is Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau, who called COVID-19 restrictions “weird science” and filed multiple lawsuits against the state whenever Gov. JB Pritzker added COVID-19 mitigations at the height of the pandemic. Rob Cruz was kicked off the Oak Lawn High School District Board after he sued Pritzker over a school mask mandate against the district’s wishes. Cruz has also publicly doubted the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election. Attorney Scott Kaspar claims states “violated” the Constitution by certifying the votes of electors, a theory that has been disproven by dozens of legal experts.

In the 11th District, currently represented by U.S. Rep. Bill Foster (D-Naperville), which stretches from Lemont and Naperville to the south all the way to Woodstock and McHenry to the north, Pritzker won the district by just 2.5 percentage points in 2018, making it a prime spot for a GOP pickup. Former Trump administration appointee Catalina Lauf is considered the favorite in the race. She has attempted to seed doubt in the outcome of the presidential election.

What questions haven’t been answered at this point? More than 60 lawsuits were thrown out for lack of evidence or standing. There was no widespread fraud.

Jerry Evans, a music teacher seeking the 11th District nomination, claimed “roughly half the country” doubts the outcome of the 2020 election. 60% of Americans responding to a University of Massachusetts-Amherst poll in late 2021 called the election legitimate. But 71% or Republicans questioned the results. That’s why we the GOP needs to change direction.

Just look at the 14th District, represented by U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Naperville). Her new district added hundreds of square miles of rural area, stretching now from Joliet in the east to DeKalb to the north to La-Salle-Peru to the west. It’s a district where Pritzker won by 9 percentage points in 2018 against a Republican incumbent who drove down rural turnout, so it’s a GOP pickup opportunity.

One of the Republicans seeking to unseat her is Kendall County Republican Chairman Jim Marter, who claimed in a Shaw Media survey that there was election tampering and “we know” there was election fraud in 2020. In the simplest of terms, sure, there have been a few people indicted for double voting or ballot harvesting, but there has not been proof of widespread fraud.

If a person like Marter or Evans or Kaspar is nominated in their races, they will drive moderate, undecided voters away from the GOP. These are unelectable candidates in winnable races. Republican voters, the ones who haven’t completely sold out to the cult of Trumpsim, have to be the ones who lay out their own political litmus test. Typically, abortion is discussed as the main litmus test in politics, but primary voters need to show up and vote for candidates that tell the truth about the important issues facing democracy.

Joe Biden won the election. COVID-19 has killed a million people and masks prevented the spread of the disease before vaccinations were widely available. Whether it met the legal definition of an insurrection, we should all be able to agree that it was wrong for Trump supporters to violently storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Demand your candidates agree to these three obvious truths and vote for the ones that will. Then you’ll have a shot at winning races in November.

• Patrick Pfingsten is a former award-winning journalist and longtime Republican strategist who writes The Illinoize statewide political newsletter. You can read more at www.theillinoize.com or contact him at patrick@theillinoize.com.

Patrick Pfingsten

Patrick Pfingsten

Patrick Pfingsten is a former award-winning journalist and Republican strategist who writes The Illinoize statewide political newsletter.