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To win, Barickman says GOP needs more moderate voices

Jason Barickman
Seth Perlman

State Sen. Jason Barickman said Illinois voters punished Republicans in the midterm election, in part, because of the GOP stance on abortion. He said his party needs to acknowledge there are instances in which abortion should be legal and be willing to say what those legal conditions are.

"That type of a statement, I think, is wildly controversial in Republican primaries. But the fact we are unwilling to even say that has created among many, especially women, an unwillingness to even entertain a Republican as a vote," said the Bloomington Republican.

Barickman, speaking on WGLT's Sound Ideas, said the GOP has put itself in a corner on social issues.

"In that corner there is a limited pool of votes that are available to them. It's not even that all those Republicans standing in that corner believe in all those issues, they simply have become more silent on them," he said.

Barickman has taken some positions on issues that do not match what many Republicans support, particularly on LGBTQ rights. Yet, he said some of his constituents have rewarded him for that, even though they disagree with his position. He said they have told him they admire his willingness to take a vote of conscience.

And as dirty a word as compromise sometimes is, Barickman said getting back to the middle ground of former Republican governors Jim Thompson and Jim Edgar will benefit the GOP at the ballot box. He said this should be part of the discussion about the lessons from a lackluster showing in the mid-term election in Illinois.

The internal party discussion of what went wrong for the GOP in Nov. 8 balloting, he said, needs moderate voices speaking up on how to attract a broader cross section of voters, adding both national political rhetoric and the candidates at the top of the ticket in Illinois affected down ballot results.

"If you listen to Gov. Pritzker and his messaging in the campaign, he continually pointed to Donald Trump and national politics. It was part of his strategy. Additionally, (Pritzker opponent) Sen. Darren Bailey was known to be kind of a firebrand conservative and unapologetically so. And you add to it, Sen. Bailey was 100%, opposed to abortion. In the context of this election cycle with the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, I really think those three things played out in a manner that resulted in the outcomes that we saw, an overwhelming victory by Pritzker at the top," said Barickman.

As a result, Illinois Republicans have chosen new state House and Senate leaders — Sen. John Curran of Downers Grove and Rep. Tony McCombie of Savanna. They replaced moderates like outgoing House minority leader Jim Durkin. But Barickman said that doesn't necessarily mean the message of moderation has to change.

Barickman also said during the WGLT interview that the fall veto session has been a yawner so far.

He said there is still a lot of chatter about potential changes to the controversial SAFE-T Act, but it's unclear whether there will be a vote. In the last week, he said he has seen lots of pressure on Democrats from civil libertarians to not change or clarify the act and its rules.

Barickman said he has heard of no outreach to Republican lawmakers about the law, though some Democratic lawmakers have been in conversations with state's attorneys and other prosecutors over their concerns about its implementation.

Many of the SAFE-T Act's criminal justice reforms already are in effect. Among the most controversial aspects of the law is the implementation of the end of cash bail on Jan. 1, 2023

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
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