Morrison: Illinois GOP must unite, prove its relevance to residents
As Democrats celebrate big wins in November's midterm elections, a suburban Chicago state representative said during a recent interview that the Illinois GOP needs to unite in ways he saw writ small during his narrowly successful campaign.
"We should meet soon to discuss how we can unite as a party," Rep. Thomas Morrison (R-Palatine) said during a North Cook News telephone interview. "I'm certain that if we get together in one room and have an open dialogue, there are many issues that we can come to agreement on. To defeat the big-spending and tax-raising Democrats in Springfield and across the state, we have to be united."
Uniting the party will mean recognizing that great divides between the two major political parties in Illinois do not translate to much difference among voters, regardless of party affiliation, Morrison said.
"We have to prove that we are relevant in the lives of Illinois citizens," he said.
Illinois Republicans endured a beating during the 2018 midterm elections, suffering a statewide sweep by the Democratic party in most races, including a pick-up of two additional Illinois congressional seats. As election results rolled in, the Chicago Tribune said "Illinois is now about as blue as a J.B. Pritzker campaign sign."
Morrison narrowly defeated Maggie Trevor of Rolling Meadows, a Democrat, retaining his 54th District seat by 37 votes.
The 54th District is located entirely within Cook County and includes Arlington Heights and Rolling Meadows.
"This was a very tough election cycle, mainly because the momentum was on the Democrats' side over national issues," Morrison said. "They also had access to unbelievable amounts of money to use for campaigns."
Those factors do not guarantee Democratic victories in every election cycle, Morrison said.
"We can win without having the most amount of campaign money, but we have to make sure that our ideas are relevant to voters, and we have to make sure we're using every means to reach those voters," he said. "That could mean via social media; it could be by volunteers; it could be by the candidate making lots of public appearances and talking to voters face to face. The key is going to be that personal connection."
Those personal connections were opportunities for Morrison to show even Democrats in his district that he was relevant to them, something that became crystal clear on those inevitable occasions when he knocked on a door that did not belong to a Republican, he said.
"I would ask the person, 'Let's just set party labels aside, what are the things that concern you as an Illinois resident?'" Morrison recalled. "Many times that person would tell me their top concerns are high property taxes, Illinois's debt and people moving out of the state of Illinois. So then I would say, 'Who do you think has been mainly in charge, making decisions on policies that are causing those negative outcomes?' Then they'd have to stop and think about it for a second."
Illinois Democrats currently rule the legislature, they hold seats of power in Cook County and their policies are the driving force behind those negative outcomes, Morrison said he explained to non-Republicans he encountered in his district.
"'So here I am, standing in front of you, a Republican candidate fighting to correct the very things that are causing you the most concern.'" Morrison said he would tell them. "At an individual level, I was trying to show that I am relevant to that person. We need to do the same thing as a party."