In the 21st Century, only three Republicans have won a statewide election in Illinois: Judy Baar Topinka, elected treasurer in 2002 and comptroller in 2010; Mark Kirk, elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010; and Dan Rutherford, elected treasurer in 2010.
Recent History Shows Social Conservatives Can't Win In Illinois
Topinka, Kirk and Rutherford have one thing in common: they’re all moderate on social issues.
Topinka has always supported the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion nationwide. Recently, she defended Pat Brady, who was forced out of his job as chairman of the Illinois Republican Party for supporting gay marriage.
“Gay marriage is a very conservative thing,” Topinka said. “Family is (one of) the building blocks of a community.”
Kirk is so pro-choice that, as a congressman, he voted against a bill banning partial birth abortion. This year, Kirk became the second Republican senator to come out in favor of gay marriage.
Rutherford was the only Republican state senator to vote for the civil unions bill in 2011. He’s pro-life but doesn’t think that should be a litmus test for his party: “We as Republicans should not allow the social issues to define a good Republican from a bad Republican,“ he told Ward Room. “There are a lot of good Republicans that aren’t pro-life. There are a lot of good Republicans that don’t support the idea of conceal carry. You know what? That doesn’t make ’em a bad Republican.”
Rutherford and Bruce Rauner are the only Republicans who have a chance to win the governor’s race next year. Rauner’s mission is breaking the state’s public employee unions, and he’s not going to be distracted by debates over abortion or gay marriage. In an interview with the Tribune, he tried to avoid the issue altogether, saying, “If, for example, the Legislature passes gay marriage, I’m not going to fight to reverse it. If they don't pass it, I’m not going to advocate for it.”
That makes him more moderate than Kirk Dillard and Bill Brady, who both voted against gay marriage in the state senate.
In this century, the Republicans have gone 4-for-23 in statewide elections -- a .173 winning percentage. They can add to that terrible record by nominating more social conservatives.