“I’m not in charge,” Gov. Bruce Rauner said recently. “I’m trying to get to be in charge.”
Rauner said he’ll "get to be in charge" by taking away House Speaker Michael Madigan’s Democratic majority next year. Madigan, Rauner says, is “really” in charge of Illinois.
The Republicans need to win nine net seats. So, can Rauner really take out Madigan next year?
Keep in mind that Madigan drew the legislative district maps. Thumping him in what looks to be a big Democratic year after taking four net seats away from Madigan in 2016 will stretch the partisan possibilities of that map beyond what most would consider common sense.
Rauner does have three things going for him, however: money, the income tax hike passed over his veto and Madigan himself. Rauner has plenty of the former, and the latter two don’t poll well for the Democrats.
The Republicans must first sweep four southern Illinois districts to have a shot, and winning them is very possible.
The only statewide Democrat (including presidential candidates) to win the deep southern district of Rep. Natalie Phelps Finnie’s, D-Elizabethtown, since 2012 was Secretary of State Jesse White. Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Smithton, also has a district won only by White since 2012.
Freshman Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, defeated a flawed Republican incumbent, Dwight Kay, who is running again against a female Republican.
The winning margins of Rep. Dan Beiser, D-Alton, seem to tighten every two years, which is one reason why he’s retiring. While President Trump won Beiser’s district by 16 points, Tammy Duckworth and Susana Mendoza both won, as did Dick Durbin, Lisa Madigan and Jesse White in 2014. President Obama also won it by five points in 2012.
Let’s say Republicans win all four. They still need five more.
Rep. Sam Yingling, D-Grayslake, under-performed Hillary Clinton by nine points and had to be dragged across the finish line in the closing days by Speaker Madigan’s top field generals. He won what was considered to be a GOP district in 2012.
Retiring Rep. Carol Sente, D-Vernon Hills, cruised to an easy victory last year. She had some trouble in 2014, winning by five points. Rauner won that district by 16.
Rep. Marty Moylan, D-Des Plaines, won his last race by 19 points. Just three statewide Republicans have won this district since 2012 (Munger, Rauner and Judy Baar Topinka). He's facing pro-gun Republican Marilyn Smolenski.
If the Republicans somehow win all three (not likely), they’re still two seats shy of taking the chamber.
Possibly vulnerable Democrats who voted for the “Mike Madigan income tax hike” earlier this year include Rep. Sue Scherer, D-Decatur. Her district just barely went Democratic last year.
Rauner and Topinka are the only two Republicans who’ve won the Hoffman Estates district of Democrat Rep. Fred Crespo’s since 2012. Add Tom Cross to that very short GOP winner list for Rep. Deb Conroy’s, D-Villa Park, district. Those same three Republicans won Rep. Stefanie Kifowit’s, D-Oswego, district. The district of Rep. Anna Moeller, D-Elgin, district is also pretty solidly Democratic.
Possibly in play are two pretty Democratic north suburban open seats now represented by retired Rep. Elaine Nekritz and attorney general candidate Rep. Scott Drury. There may be one or two more.
If Rauner is reelected next year, he probably still won’t be in charge - by his own definition.