Jim Durkin Not The Best Choice to Lead the Illinois House GOP Caucus

Written by John Biver and David E. Smith

It’s being reported that Illinois House minority leader Tom Cross (R-Plainfield) is considering a run for state treasurer. That would create a vacancy not only in the Illinois House but also in the House Republican Caucus which Cross has headed up for the past 11 years. One of the names being floated to replace Cross as caucus leader is State Representative Jim Durkin from DuPage County.

Illinois is in desperate need of leadership that is both principled and courageous. Every day/week/month/year that passes without such leadership results in the degrading progression of conditions that we’ve seen over the past many years. Without moral and enlightened leaders our state’s continued decline is guaranteed. Rep. Jim Durkin possesses neither the wisdom nor skills necessary to provide the kind of bold political leadership families across our state are demanding.

Jim Durkin has been in public office for most of the past two decades, a period during which Illinois’ fiscal condition, the quality of its taxpayer-funded schools, and its moral climate have declined precipitously. Of course, the responsibility for such a decline is never the fault of just one man. That said, Durkin’s nearly twenty years in Springfield provide a record that deserves scrutiny in order to evaluate his worthiness for a promotion.

Some readers might recognize Jim Durkin’s name from his anemic challenge to U.S. Senator Dick Durbin in 2002 — a challenge that inspired virtually no one. While that was a decade ago, Durkin has given no evidence he learned anything except, in his words, to avoid taking on “a popular incumbent.”

As with anyone who has held public office as long as Durkin has there are many questionable, even disappointing, votes. For example, Durkin has voted for tax increases and a massive expansion of gambling and against virtual schools.

But vetting a candidate for a role as significant as Illinois House GOP caucus leader requires an examination of much more than a voting record.

Durkin is a partner in a Chicago law firm and is a member of the firm’s “Municipal & Governmental Practice Group.” This should alarm Illinoisans. Every day we learn more about how conflicts of interest cost them dearly both in taxes and quality of life. The number of lawyers serving as rainmakers for their firms while holding public office has led even the liberal publication The Economist to call Illinois a dysfunctional state.

While we could go into much more detail about Durkin’s lackluster political career, two very important recent incidents stand out.

Earlier this year Illinois Family Institute supporters had to organize a rally outside of Jim Durkin’s Western Springs office to pressure him to vote against SB 10, the so-called same-sex “marriage” bill.  As a man professing to be a conservative, such a rally should not have been necessary.

If Mr. Durkin doesn’t understand that marriage has a nature that the state merely recognizes and regulates, then he lacks the wisdom necessary for the leadership position he seeks. If he doesn’t understand the corrosive effect on religious liberty that the legal recognition of same-sex unions as “marriages” will have, he lacks the capacity to think through the logical outworking of an idea. Further, he lacks sufficient respect for what America’s Founding Fathers called our “First Freedom.”

Instead of already understanding these realities, Durkin, a lawyer, had to be schooled in them. Anyone who hasn’t yet learned about the importance of marriage and religious liberty should return to the classroom and not seek more political and legislative responsibility.

Making him the minority leader for the Illinois House Republicans would undoubtedly elevate Representatives Ron Sandack (R-Westmont) and Ed Sullivan (R-Libertyville) into leadership positions.  This is completely unacceptable. Both of these lawmakers are lobbying for him for this position.  Both of these lawmakers are co-sponsors of SB 10.

Another enormous blot on Durkin’s record is that more than anyone else, he was responsible for the elevation of Pat Brady to the post of Illinois Republican National Committeeman and then Illinois Republican Party Chairman. When Brady came out publicly and strongly for homosexual “marriage” earlier this year, he did more damage to the Illinois GOP than anyone since former Governor George Ryan. Jim Durkin’s cozy relationships with feckless politicians like Pat Brady and State Representatives Sandack and Sullivan  have apparently caused him to reconsider his defense of true marriage.

And there’s yet another important issue that he apparently doesn’t understand. The issue is illegal pornography, known as obscenity. Illinois’ obscenity law defines “community” standards as the entire state. In other words, whatever is acceptable in Chicago or East St. Louis becomes the standard for the entire state. As a result, obscenity cases are seldom, if ever, prosecuted in Illinois. Back in the 90’s when pro-family groups introduced a jury instruction bill that would have defined “community” as the jurisdiction from which the jury was pooled, Durkin opposed it. This was unusual since he was a former prosecutor. Pro-family activists picketed his office then too, but to no avail. The bill failed.  So to this day, we have Chicago standards of strip bars and porn shops as the standard for the rest of the state.

The amount of work that’s needed to rebuild a viable alternative party to the one that currently rules Illinois is enormous. Jim Durkin has given no evidence that he has the capacity and willingness to outline a comprehensive conservative agenda that will restore liberty and health to our dying state and aggressively sell it to the voters of Illinois.

Jim Durkin’s record since 1995 is not one that recommends him for assuming one of the most important political and legislative posts in our very troubled state. While every elected office in the state is a “bully pulpit,” those of state-wide elected officers, congressmen, state party chairs, and the leaders of the General Assembly caucus have even greater potential to influence public opinion.

Please contact your Republican state representatives and respectfully request that they not support Jim Durkin for caucus leader.