Hundreds of front-line Democrats gathered at the annual Democratic
county chairmen's breakfast at the Crowne Plaza Hotel before heading
to the 158th Illinois State Fair. President Barack Obama, meanwhile,
made public appearances in the northwestern part of his home state
Wednesday as part of his three-day tour of the Midwest.
chairmen statewide said the 2012 general election, in which all
state legislators and U.S. representatives must run for re-election
in modified districts because of redistricting, would skew in their
"I fully expect that with the energy from the top of the ticket
-- the congressional races -- it's just going to come all the way
down, and I think it will not only come down-ticket, but it will
also come downstate, starting in Chicago and come all the way down
to southern Illinois," said Monroe County Democratic Chairman Alan
Following Democratic gains in the 2008 election, Republicans
seized on the rising popularity of the fiscal conservative movement
to seize a majority in the U.S. House and make gains in other
elected offices. This momentum was experienced in Illinois, as
Republicans unseated several Democratic incumbents in Congress, the
General Assembly and statewide offices.
Democratic county chairmen in Illinois said they are hoping the
voters' frustration over the toxic national debt-ceiling debate in
Washington, D.C., and the sputtering national economy with its
lagging unemployment will help them reverse some of the GOP gains in
Ogle County Democratic Chairwoman Holly Johnson said she attended
the breakfast rather than Obama's visits to Atkinson and Alpha.
"I think everybody is frustrated with both sides. I'm really
frustrated with both sides, but I think if we can get the word out
and people understand what's going on, I do think the anger will"
work in favor of the Democrats, Johnson said.
East of Ogle, Grundy County Democrats watched their county switch
allegiances in 2010, as U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Manteno, ousted
Democratic incumbent Debbie Halvorson in the 11th Congressional
"I think this is not the same as 2010. I think what you're going
to see is a lot of people realize that the party politics that got
pushed through last year are not doing the county or the state or
the country any good and that they need to elect people that are
going to move forward," said Grundy County Democratic Chairman Mike
Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady said the reality of
what's happening in Illinois, where Democrats hold the governor's
office and majorities in both chambers of the Legislature, will not
only maintain the momentum from the previous election in support of
Republicans, but will add to it.
"If you want to come to a state that is completely screwed up,
not only by the local Democrats but by the national Democrats, I
invite you to come to Illinois and spend a week here," Brady said.
"You will see the worst state insofar as how this state is managed
from a fiscal perspective."
[to top of second column]
Democratic county chairmen disagreed with Brady's attempt to link
their party to the state's fiscal problems, such as the $4 billion
in overdue bills the state owes. Instead of focusing on national
politics, where casting stones is easier because officials aren't as
visible as in smaller neighborhoods, many chairmen said they have
set their goals on keeping Democrats in local offices during the
In Peoria County, for example, state Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria,
has announced his ambition to run for the 17th Congressional
District in the U.S. House, creating an open race for his Statehouse
office, which is usually more competitive because of the lack of
incumbent name recognition.
"We've got to keep that (state) Senate seat. You know, Dave
Koehler, we've got to keep that seat, there's no doubt," said Peoria
County Democratic Chairmen Billy Halstead.
Much of the Democratic county chairmen's faith in a big 2012
victory is founded on the belief that the more conservative
candidates who helped Republicans make big gains in 2010 will hurt
their party in the upcoming elections.
"The frustration is because of what's happening with the tea
party and what's happening with the Republicans. ... As things
develop, we're going to see a trend move towards Democrats," said
DuPage County Chairman Bob Peickert.
Brady doesn't see it that way. He said that in Illinois, a state
controlled by Democrats, the numbers should favor Republicans.
"We have the worst deficit in the country, we have the worst debt
in the country, we are the fourth-worst state in the Union as a
place to do business," Brady said. "President Obama, your buddies in
Illinois have done a miserable job of handling the economy in this
Statehouse News; By ANDREW THOMASON]