McLean County’s top Republican said her party is ready to fight off Democratic challenges on several new fronts during the 2020 election.
Ten Democratic candidates have already announced runs for McLean County Board, hoping to cut into the Republicans’ 13-to-7 majority. Three Democrats are challenging incumbent GOP countywide officeholders, up from one in the 2018 election.
McLean County Republican Party chair Connie Beard said she has the financial resources and boots on the ground to defend her incumbents. The GOP can no longer afford to be complacent and assume McLean County will stay red forever, she said.
“Now is not the time for complacency. We have to be energized and awake to the challenge and take the steps needed. I have every confidence we have the resources needed and the people,” Beard said on WGLT’s Sound Ideas. “We have people across the county who are determined that this is not going to be a situation where the Democrats are going to try and flip the county into a blue county. We’re confident.”
Republicans will also have at least two contested primaries in March.
One of them is for county auditor. Incumbent Michelle Anderson will face Republican challenger Trisha Malott, who has the support of several countywide GOP officeholders. Anderson has faced criticism for her role in a dispute with the county’s treasurer—something that officials say has delayed bills getting paid on time and threatened to tarnish the county’s reputation.
Beard said the party’s bylaws don’t allow for the party to endorse either Anderson or Malott. Beard herself is staying neutral because “voters need to be the ones to decide.”
“I believe in choice. I think it’s good for people to have motivation to get out and vote in the primaries. This primary is not going to be the boring little primary that sometimes it can be,” Beard said. “Although I want to have our best candidate move forward, at the same time I’m grateful I’m not in a position of picking one candidate over the other.”
WGLT spoke to Beard on Friday at the GOP’s new headquarters on Landmark Drive in Normal. The party was previously based on Prospect Road in Bloomington.
Beard spoke as Day 2 of public hearings in the impeachment inquiry took place in Washington, D.C. Beard said she has not yet seen any solid evidence of illegal conduct on behalf of President Trump related to Ukraine. So far it’s been a lot of hearsay, she said.
“I acknowledge there’s things that can be troubling,” Beard said. “But the overwhelming point is that he’s not crossed the line. He has not done unethical or illegal actions as president.”
Trump and many of his allies deny there was any quid pro quo. They say Trump did not withhold military aid to Ukraine as part of an exchange for investigations that could help Trump politically in the 2020 campaign. (Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney admitted that link in a press briefing but then later walked back his comments.)
U.S. diplomat William Taylor’s recent testimony to congressional investigators supports allegations that Trump withheld military assistance as part of a parallel — and informal — Ukraine policy.
Beard said she doesn’t think Trump did anything that other presidents haven’t done.
“They’ve always used leverage and persuasive methods to deal with other countries,” she said. “Whether what he was doing was unethical—I know they keep alluding to the fact that he was trying to undermine a political opponent. But there was never anything delivered as a quid pro quo to meet that requirement that he was supposedly making of Ukraine.”
Turnout is expected to be high in 2020—the first time Trump will be personally on the ballot since winning in 2016. Democrat Hillary Clinton beat Trump in Illinois by 17 percentage points.
When asked how Trump might impact her local and state candidates, Beard said her party will focus tightly on McLean County issues. Their message: We’ll keep the economy strong and taxes as low as they possible can be.
“I suspect the Democratic Party of McLean County will continue to try to tie national politics into local politics,” Beard said.
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