© 2024 WGLT
A public service of Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

New McLean County GOP chair wants the party to work on new messaging

Supporters of Darren Bailey's campaign for Illinois governor gathered outside during a news conference held by GOP opponent Richard Irvin.
Eric Stock
Supporters of Darren Bailey's campaign for Illinois governor outside during a news conference held by GOP opponent Richard Irvin. Gov. JB Pritzker defeated Bailey in the November general election.

The new head of the McLean County Republican Party says the party has some soul searching to do after last month's disappointing election.

“There’s a lot of directions everyone wants to go and we just maybe need some new direction,” said McLean County GOP chair Dennis Grundler.

Grundler, from Downs, replaced Connie Beard, who stepped down this week. Beard said her departure was family related.

Dennis Grundler
Dennis Grundler

Grundler said the party needs to improve its messaging to get more Republicans to the polls and help mend relationships with disgruntled voters.

“That’s the hard part, figuring out what that message needs to be, and I think we had a come-to-Jesus meeting after this last election and we are trying to figure that out right now,” Grundler said.

Democrats were able to make more compelling emotional arguments in the general election, he said, adding the Supreme Court decision overturning abortion rights also seemed to motivate many Democratic voters.

Grundler said the party needs a stronger organization of precinct committee persons to knock on doors and stump for votes. He said nearly half the positions are unfilled.

Early voting

Grundler also wants to encourage early voting to improve his party's chances of winning elections. He said the GOP can't win when the party is already 600,000 to 1 million votes behind statewide on election day.

“Maybe some of the new messaging will be ‘get ballots out’ and we’ll start getting people out 40 days early and we’ll start having an election season instead of an Election Day, because I think that’s where Democrats have delivered,” Grundler said, adding part of that effort will be convincing some Republicans that early voting is safe and secure.

Donald Trump and several other prominent Republicans have discouraged early voting based on false claims that those ballots are not secure.

Grundler said he doesn't believe Trump hurt the Republican Party; the former president backed several prominent candidates who lost in November.

GOP appointments

One of Grundler’s first tasks as county GOP chair will be to help the Republican party fill two seats in the Illinois legislature. State Rep. Keith Sommer plans to resign on Dec. 31, about one week before his term was scheduled to end. The party chairs in McLean and Tazewell counties are expected to fill that seat next week.

State Rep.-elect Bill Hauteris expected to be chosen. The new 87th Illinois House district to which Hauter was elected covers much of Sommer’s current 88th House district.

Grundler said the more competitive in-party race will be for who replaces state Sen. Jason Barickman of Bloomington. Barickman said he won’t serve the four-year term to which he was elected in November. The choice to replace Barickman lies with the Republican party chairs within the 53rd district’s 14 counties.

Grundler said several potential candidates have reached out to him, but he said the formal process can’t begin until Barickman officially tenders his resignation.

Several candidates have publicly expressed interest in the post. Grundler did not suggest which candidate he might back, but expressed that he wants someone in Springfield who can help grow the Republican party.

“The other thing I would like to see that maybe we haven’t seen as much is someone that not only goes to Springfield, but comes back with their constituents, listens to them. And also, maybe they are the ones that get out and help us bring people back to this party because that is what we need.”

Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.