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Sen. Barickman: Voters Will Determine Republican Party's Direction

Jason Barickman
State Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, says his party is aiming to focus on the issues facing the state, such as the budget and the ongoing redistricting process.

It's been three months since former President Donald Trump left office. Even now, he continues to shape the modern Republican Party as it goes through an identity crisis.

Jason Barickman of Bloomington is floor leader for the Republicans in the State Senate. The party currently holds a superminority in both houses of the legislature.

Barickman said he doesn’t think a political party should revolve around a single person.

“The Republican Party is more about a collection of shared values, things like freedom and kind of philosophical measures that are important to people who identify as Republicans, limited government, things of that nature,” said Barickman. “I think the soul of the party, the foundation of it is based on those types of promises, and candidates who are competing for the hearts and minds of voters.”

Barickman said soul searching is an ongoing process that takes place in all political parties.

“You certainly see that reflected in the Democrat Party,” said Barickman. “They're fighting among themselves on what the priorities of (Nancy) Pelosi’s caucus ought to be in the House, as an example."

He said above all, voters are the ones who determine the direction of any given party.

“I think countless numbers of voters who identify as Republicans are frustrated with the size, growth and control of our government,” said Barickman. “As a result, they're speaking out, they're motivated to see in their government something that focuses on a different set of priorities than what they're seeing federally at this moment.”

Barickman said independence is a major tenet of his political philosophy.

“I've always been a vocal champion that individuals ought to be able to have the right to make their individual choices in life, they ought to be given more freedom, that our government ought to be limited,” said Barickman. “Those kind of philosophies are things that I've supported continuously with my voting record.”

Last session, Barickman voted against a bill that expanded absentee voting in the runup to the 2020 general election. By contrast, he was one of only three Senate Republicans to vote in favor of legalizing recreational cannabis in Illinois. He was also the only Republican in that part of the legislature to support requiring teaching on historical LGBTQ figures in public schools.

Priorities ahead

Barickman said for now, he’s more focused on the major issues, such as redistricting and the budget, ahead of the legislature as the last month of session approaches.

“We're heads down in Illinois right now, focused on the challenges that face our state,” said Barickman. “When we get into an election cycle, that's where more of the politics of it all come about … But that's a little ahead of where we're at at the moment.”

Barickman serves as the Republican spokesperson for the Senate Redistricting Committee. He and many other Republicans have supported the idea of an independent redistricting commission.

“Here we are in the year that it matters, the state's redistricting, and we can't get one Democrat in this state to support the independent maps proposal that we put forward, which, ironically, is identical to the proposal that the Democrats supported just last year,” said Barickman. “I think there's a hypocrisy there.”

He said that speaks to how Democrats have handled other major issues and challenges before the legislature, such as ethics reform and spending.

“There are, I think, fundamental questions as to whether the Democrats who today have control of Illinois government, if those Democrats are willing to actually address some of these systemic problems,” said Barickman.

Rep. Anthony DeLuca, D-Chicago Heights, is the sponsor behind legislation that would put limits on how long the same person can serve in a given legislative leadership role. That passed out of the House last week with no votes against it.

“We're knee-deep in whether we're going to see a balanced budget, fair maps, ethical reforms and some of the other issues that we need to address right away in our state,” said Barickman.

But he said he thinks the legislature needs to continue to strive for bipartisanship.

“I don't think that anyone's served when people act … in a partisan manner,” said Barickman. “I think the public's better served, I think public policy is better when it has bipartisan influence to it.”

Getting vaccinated

Barickman and his wife Kristin got their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine last week at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.

Barickman said he questioned Gov. JB Pritzker's February decision to allow lawmakers to get vaccinated early. Many of his Republican colleagues voiced similar concerns at the time.

"I said that I wasn't going to get vaccinated in advance, with that kind of carved out special exception for politicians,” said Barickman. “I instead just waited my turn. And now that my turn is up, we gladly went and got the vaccine. My wife and I gladly did."

Barickman said the decision of whether or not to get the vaccine is a personal one.

“I think there's a lot of factors that will likely go into anyone's decision to get any vaccine, COVID or otherwise,” said Barickman. “Those are decisions that I would encourage people to make with their health care provider.”

A Kaiser Family Foundation poll in March found around 30% of Republicans say they definitely won't get vaccinated. That number drops significantly among independents and Democrats.

Barickman said he expects to get his second shot in a few weeks.

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Christine Hatfield, a graduate student in University of Illinois Springfield's Public Affairs Reporting program, is WGLT and WCBU's PAR intern for the first half of 2021.