Illinois' 72nd District state House seat could flip, Rock Island County GOP chair says
With a little love from Illinois Republicans, a Rock Island County state House race could make a difference in beating enough Democrats in next year's general election to take down longtime House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago), a county Republican official said during a recent interview.
Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, who is running for re-election next year, and other Republicans in the state need to take a harder look at the 72nd Illinois state House race, Rock Island County GOP Chairman Mike Steffen told Rock Island Today. That seat, currently held by Rep. Michael Halpin (D-Rock Island), could flip, Steffen said.
"It would be nice if we could get some HRO (House Republican Organization) money and maybe some from Rauner's camp," Steffen said. "As it exists right now, from what I've heard it's not one of the nine that they think are winnable but that's just because they haven't looked at the numbers lately. There's been a demographic shift over here."
Halpin won the 72nd state House District race during the 2016 general election. Halpin took 56.4 percent of the vote in that election to defeat Republican challenger Brandi McGuire for the seat held then by longtime Democrat Pat Verschoore, who retired.
The 72nd state House District is located entirely within Rock Island County.
Steffen also said that "a good candidate" has been tapped to run against Halpin: community activist and ordained minister Glen Evans. Evans sought the Democratic nomination for the 72nd House District in the 2016 race and has run in a number of previous elections. Steffen said he's seen enough lately to make him believe that seat could change based on responses he has received as he knocks on doors as part of his own bid to be re-elected to Rock Island County Board.
"There are so many people who when I say, 'Hey, I'm helping so-and-so get some signatures to get on the ballot,' and then they ask, 'What party?'," Steffen said. "I say 'Republican,' and then they say, 'OK, I'll do it. I'm glad you didn't say the other name'."
It isn't only Republican voters who are ready are unhappy, Steffen said.
"There are so many people out here, even Democrats, who are very upset with Halpin in the 72nd," Steffen said. "He's only been there two years but enough is enough, it's time to knock him off."
Steffen also referred to county clerk figures that indicate "about a 30 percent turnout" for the off-year 2018 general election.
"Even if the numbers are 60 percent Democrat or normally vote Democrat, and 40 percent Republican, we could do this," he said.
If the 72nd state House District were to flip and the Republican Party were to take eight other seats in the state House, then Illinois would have a new House speaker for the first time in about three decades.
Steffen said he also has his eye on his own race and the Rock Island County Board, where the majority seats are in the 2018 general election. Steffen said he is feeling good about the GOP's chances in those races.
"If everybody wins on the county board, we could win 13 out of the 25 and take over the county board," he said.