By CATHY SANTOS • May 31, 2011
A major reform battle that’s long been brewing in Illinois comes to a climax today in Springfield. It’s Tom Cross vs. Kirk Dillard – and by the close of the spring legislative session later on today, we’ll all know the victor.
The battle is over Senate Bill 35 – legislation that would give every Republican the right to directly elect the members of the Illinois Republican Party’s senior governing board (officially called the State Central Committee).
In one corner is State Senator Kirk Dillard. He represents the good guys, the reformers, the rank-and-file, and the people who have the crazy idea that Republican voters are smart enough to elect their own leaders just like the Democrats already do.
In the opposite corner is State Representative Tom Cross. He represents the dinosaurs, the self dealers, and the not so bright. Cross’ fans are people who think the biggest problem with the Republican Party in Illinois is that Republicans are voting too much.
On the surface this match-up would seem to present an easy win for Dillard. Truth, justice, common sense, and an overwhelming majority of Republicans are on his side. Being on the side of real elections, better accountability, more openness, and true democracy would seem like a slam dunk.
But it’s going to come down to who wants it more. Rank-and-file Republicans have done all they can do. But at the end of the day this thing is going to be decided by the lawmakers who work in Springfield. On this bill that means Cross vs. Dillard.
Cross is playing hard ball. Never one to be burdened by facts or the truth, Cross typically just makes things up. As we reported yesterday, even his “compromise” is dishonest and rotten to the core.
But if Dillard doesn’t do more to stand up for Republicans and defend the truth, Cross will win by default. And that means our entire Party loses, not just Dillard.
To his credit, Dillard was instrumental last month in winning State Senate passage of SB35. But the direct election reform has passed out of the Illinois Senate three times now since 2005, twice by unanimous vote.
The problem remains that when the bill gets over to the House chamber Tom Cross goes into his stonewalling routine. So far Dillard’s largely given Cross a pass. I can’t think of a single time during the entire history of SB35/SB600 where I’ve seen Dillard publicly fight for this reform once it got over to the House.
Dillard is well liked and respected in Springfield on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers. If Dillard applied himself and decided he wanted to get SB35 passed on the House side he could get it passed. If Dillard would work as hard to pass this reform as Cross has in working to keep Republicans voiceless in their own party, SB35 would have passed a long time ago.
Let me make this clear, I am one of the people who likes and respects Kirk Dillard. I know he’s a decent man, and he was my choice for governor last year. In fact there is zero doubt in my mind that if he had championed SB35/SB600 more during his campaign and made standing up for the rank-and-file even a small focus he would be Governor of Illinois today. No question about it.
But that’s water under the bridge. The question now is whether Dillard has learned from his mistake or whether he’s going to blow it once more.
Again, I personally like Kirk Dillard. But I simply won’t be able to support any man for governor in the future who is okay with getting the old Tom Double Cross two years in a row.
Cathy Santos is a Republican political consultant.