A Republican state senator from Bloomington said Tuesday that suburban Chicago candidates need to localize their elections.
Jason Barickman said GOP candidates should talk about the issues that matter to their constituents, and not what's happening in the presidential race.
"I think for Illinois Republicans, we're going to see some difficult days ahead in the suburbs. We're going to see likely some victories more downstate," said Barickman.
Barickman said the GOP needs success in the suburbs to be competitive in statewide races.
"Suburban voters want their streets safe. They want their schools to be high quality. They'd like to see their property taxes come down. And they want the opportunity for meaningful employment. I think those issues are always something that Republicans can stand strong on," said Barickman.
He urged his party to study and learn from the lessons that will come from the results of next week's balloting.
Pandemic-driven changes to service
State lawmakers often serve as liaisons between constituents and state agencies whose rules and procedures can sometimes be opaque. Barickman said the pandemic has changed how he and his staff perform that function.
He said a limited ability to have face-to-face meetings has made communicating with state agencies more difficult for both his staff and constituents. There are many reports of people seeking unemployment benefits having difficulty finding resolution to their problems. Barickman said that is true for other agencies as well because work-from-home arrangements mean many agencies are not "fully operational."
There's also a cultural shift that is taking place. Barickman said the historic mindset is just to walk into a state agency. More mature residents, he said, especially operate that way. And historically he said people have wanted personal meetings. That does not happen now.
"I used to spend a lot of time on the phone. I spend much more time on the phone, which probably my wife said was never possible," said Barickman.
He said he looks for the positives, even in the pandemic. For instance, his district is a 2 1/2 hour drive from east to west. Less driving has helped his productivity.
"Today, I think people are just more accustomed to picking up the phone, scheduling some time, and talking through some issues," said Barickman.
Barickman said he's not sure phone culture will change permanently, though some things caused by the pandemic will. Government has long been criticized as slow to adapt, but he said you can argue limits imposed by the pandemic will jump start change.
"I wouldn't over promise that you are going to see immediate results from that. I think you are going to have more people frustrated at first than not," he said. "But it creates some pressure on all of us who serve in some public capacity to ask how can we deliver the services we are called on to deliver in a more effective and efficient manner given the new norm that we live in."
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