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News Archive

Indictment could hurt GOP in 2004 races

file:home12

December 18, 2003

BY DAVE MCKINNEY Sun-Times Springfield Bureau

SPRINGFIELD -- How much worse can things get for Republicans in Illinois?

Even before Wednesday's stunning federal indictment against former Gov. George Ryan, the growing scandal had cost his party the Executive Mansion and state Senate. Ryan's clouded reign also was blamed for President Bush's double-digit loss in Illinois in 2002 -- with Ryan as his state campaign chairman.

Next year, Bush is on the ballot again. And Sen. Peter Fitzgerald's retirement has created an open Senate seat, which Democrats want to snatch from Republicans.

Some high-level Republicans in Illinois' delegation to Washington believe Bush's slim chances of taking Illinois next year all but evaporated with Ryan's indictment, even though the president is poised for a bounce from the rebounding economy and the capture of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

"Illinois has been in bad shape for four years throughout George Ryan's governorship. That cloud existed during the last presidential race, when Bush lost by 12 or 14 points. It still exists, and this is going to make it a very uphill fight for him in Illinois," a senior GOP strategist said.

Still, state Republican Party Chairwoman Judy Baar Topinka, the state treasurer and a friend of Ryan's, stressed that her party is not prepared to give up the ghost on the 2004 campaigns.

"In the coming weeks and months, this news will bring with it a focus on the past," she said. "But the Illinois Republican Party remains committed to the future as we seek to build on the significant gains we have made over the past year in preparations for the crucial 2004 election."

Few Democrats openly pounced on the Ryan news Wednesday, figuring federal prosecutors will do the talking for them as the campaign season gets under way and the charges against Ryan get aired out in federal court.

House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego), a lead sponsor of the new state ethics law, said there is nowhere for Republicans to go next year but up.

"We had such a bad election in 2002 that we really hit rock bottom," he said. "I think we've started to rebound, and I don't know how this affects our rebound. The negative of what the George Ryan problems caused was felt in 2002 and felt heavily. But now, it's almost like it's had its effect."





 
 








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