GOP chairman calls for unity

Cook County Commissioner Schneider says a good start would be a nationwide halt to gerrymandering

 Cook County Commissioner Timothy Schneider, chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, addresses a partisan crowd on Governor's Day at the State Fair. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

Cook County Commissioner Timothy Schneider, chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, addresses a partisan crowd on Governor's Day at the State Fair. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

By Ted Cox

SPRINGFIELD — The head of the Illinois Republican Party called for statewide unity as Governor's Day got underway Wednesday at the State Fair.

"We've got to bring the state together," said Cook County Commissioner Timothy Schneider, of Bartlett, chairman of the state Republican Party. "This polarization of the Republican and Democratic parties caused by gerrymandering in our state and our country has really just polarized everybody."

Gerrymandering is the device of drawing districts to benefit one party over another. It's been called politicians selecting their voters rather than vice versa. States typically draw their district maps with the party in charge of the governor's mansion taking the lead. Illinois's current districts were drawn by Democrats after the 2010 U.S. Census, but most other states have maps drawn by Republicans. New maps are to be drawn after the next census in 2020.

"We need to come together and work together to get things done for the people of Illinois," Schneider added. "You have to compromise. You have to govern. You have to get along. You can't just say that because it's a Democrat idea or a Republican idea that the other side just has to say no."

There were signs of compromise this year, as the General Assembly finally passed a budget Gov. Bruce Rauner could sign after a two-year impasse and a budget passed over his veto last year. But Schneider said we're not where we need to be on political discourse.

"Not right now," he said, with the election looming. "I see more signs of polarization right now. We've got to stop that. We've got to come together."

Of course, Schneider joined several Republican candidates in attacks on House Speaker Michael Madigan during Wednesday's political rally, and they did their best to link Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker and other statewide candidates to Madigan. The Paul Simon Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale recently published a paper stating that Madigan has replaced Chicago's original Mayor Richard J. Daley as a downstate whipping boy in campaigns based on political divisiveness. But it should be duly noted Wednesday's attacks were made in remarks to a partisan crowd gearing up for the campaign.

Democrat Day is Thursday at the State Fair. Although the conventional wisdom is that political campaigns shift into high gear on Labor Day weekend ahead of Election Day on Nov. 6, in Illinois many politicians consider that the party rallies at the State Fair kick off the fall campaign.