February 24, 2024

Rich Miller: Reboletti tries something different

Republican Dennis Reboletti is trying something different in a state legislative race: Stake out a “moderate” position on abortion in a party that completely rejects that stance and in a race against a solidly pro-choice Democrat.

Reboletti, the Addison Township supervisor, has no GOP primary opposition, so he’s essentially free to be the first Republican legislative candidate in recent memory to attempt to thread this needle. No other House GOP candidates are known to have this position, which makes the race worth watching. It’s not going to be easy, to say the least, and a similar tactic came up short in another major DuPage County race in 2022.

Two years ago, the Senate Democrats spent millions of dollars to defeat Reboletti, then a state representative from Elmhurst, when he tried to challenge state Sen. Suzy Glowiak Hilton, D-Western Springs. The Democrats focused heavily on abortion rights, and Reboletti lost by almost 10 points.

This year, Reboletti is once again trying to make his way back to the General Assembly, challenging Marti Deuter in an open seat race created when freshman state Rep. Jenn Ladisch Douglass, D-Elmhurst, abruptly announced in September that she wouldn’t run again.

Douglass just barely defeated incumbent state Rep. Deanne Mazzochi, R-Elmhurst, by 364 votes in a 2022 race that leaned heavily on Mazzochi’s full-throated opposition to abortion. Mazzochi also tied herself closely to seemingly every possible right-wing group imaginable during that election and refused to cooperate with the House Republican Organization. She had decent name recognition, which probably kept it close, but Democratic money and the abortion issue did her in at the end of the day.

Douglass ran a good suburban race and Mazzochi ran a bad one, but that was then, and now Deuter, a longtime Elmhurst alderperson, is the one to beat. The district leans strongly Democratic at the top. Joe Biden won it in 2020 by nine points. No statewide Republican has won the district since Bruce Rauner took it by 5 points in 2018. But the district map was drawn so heavily Democratic that it’s one of the better chances the Republicans have.

Reboletti appeared on WIND Radio several days ago and told host John Anthony that developments since the overturning of Roe v. Wade have “really bothered me.”

Reboletti said he would support allowing voters to decide whether to approve a constitutional amendment on abortion rights. “I think that my belief is women have that right to choose,” he said. “I don’t think we should be in the middle of that.”

Reboletti quoted former Democratic President Bill Clinton’s oft-repeated statement that abortions should be “safe, legal and rare,” and said he opposed public funding of abortions and that he opposes “partial-birth abortion.”

The pro-choice Personal PAC has already endorsed Deuter in the race, and it’s highly doubtful that Reboletti’s recent comments would have made much of a difference. Personal PAC demands 100% support for its legislation, so a middle ground would not be met with approval.

Compromise candidates have not done well nationally, and a pro-choice middle ground came up short in another DuPage County race in 2022. Republican Greg Hart ran ads featuring his spouse vouching for his pro-choice stances, but Hart himself wasn’t as forceful on the issue. He lost to then-Rep. Deb Conroy, D-Elmhurst, by 2.5 percentage points. Conroy received about 18,000 fewer votes than Gov. JB Pritzker in DuPage while Hart received about 24,000 more votes than anti-abortion Darren Bailey. That may have been more about local politics, but still.

Another important point here is that the Illinois AFL-CIO has not endorsed either candidate so far. Unions seem to be split. The Chicago Laborers’ District Council PAC gave Reboletti a $750 contribution last October and the state firefighters union contributed $1,000 last month, while the Carpenters Union gave Deuter $2,000.

Reboletti reported raising just $12,600 in the fourth quarter. He spent $7,000, including a $1,000 contribution to U.S. Rep. Mike Bost in his primary against far-right Republican Darren Bailey. Reboletti’s Bost contribution appeared to be making a statement about the divide in his party between the purists and everyone else, but that can also be easily twisted by the other side as him supporting the 100% anti-abortion, pro-Trump Republican Bost. Reboletti ended the quarter with just $16,000 in the bank and has reported no large contributions since.

Deuter loaned her campaign $5,000 last quarter, raised another $16,000, spent only $1,000 and ended with just under $20,000 in the bank. Deuter was endorsed by DuPage County Board Chair Conroy last month.

• Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.

Rich Miller

Rich Miller

Rich Miller publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.