Schillerstrom leaves it to Cross — bows out of Illinois Treasurer’s raceContinue reading.
Cross plans to give up leadership slot, considers bid for state treasurer
SPRINGFIELD — House Minority Leader Tom Cross announced plans Wednesday to relinquish the leadership post he has held for more than a decade and set his sights on a possible bid for state treasurer.
The Oswego Republican, who informed his House Republican colleagues of his plans in a conference call, said he would make a determination in the next two weeks whether he’ll try to succeed Treasurer Dan Rutherford, who is in a four-way race for the GOP nomination for governor.
In a statement, Cross said he had “shared with my colleagues in the House Republican caucus my sincere appreciation for all of their support, hard-work and repeated confidence in me to serve as the House Republican leader for the last 10 years. Serving as House Republican leader has been an immense privilege and a humbling honor and I will forever cherish the friendships, the successes and yes, even the battles.”
“As I consider the challenge of serving Illinois at a higher level, I did ask my colleagues in the House Republican caucus to begin the process of a succession plan so that a new leader may be chosen in preparation for the 2014 elections. I will be announcing my plans within the next two weeks and I remain committed to adding members to the House Republican caucus,” he said.
Cross had contemplated a bid for attorney general this year until those plans were thwarted by Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s announcement in July that she was seeking re-election. His flirtation with that job left him almost a lame duck in his caucus, weakening his leadership grip and triggering a behind-the-scenes succession battle that has been simmering for the past four months.
Regarded as a moderate Republican since being seated in the Illinois House in 1993, Cross is positioned to seek an office that in recent Illinois political history has been friendly to Republicans. Since 1994, the GOP has won the post in four out of five election cycles.
It also could be a launching pad for higher statewide office in Illinois, including a 2018 bid for governor, though treasurers in recent political memory have not successfully used the office as a steppingstone for bigger things. State Treasurer Dan Rutherford is hoping to break that pattern with his GOP bid for governor.
If Cross enters the treasurer’s race, he figures to be the better-known and better-funded Republican, at least initially. DuPage County Auditor Bob Grogan is also exploring a run for treasurer and has begun to line up support from the GOP’s conservative flank.
State campaign records show that Cross reported $190,750 in available funds as of June 30 and has raked in more than $49,000 since then. By contrast, Grogan reported just $19,000 in his political fund as of June 30.
If Cross were to emerge from a GOP primary, his general-election opponent likely would be state Sen. Michael Frerichs (D-Champaign), who picked up the Cook County Democratic Party endorsement last weekend and Wednesday belittled Cross as a “Springfield” insider who has lost touch with the middle class.
“Cross has been a Springfield insider for over two decades during which he contributed to many of the most hazardous fiscal decisions leading to our current financial crisis,” Frerichs said in a prepared statement.
“Leader Cross has championed a Republican caucus which has lost touch with the middle class and has sought to cut to the core the very programs that working families across Illinois depend on like public schools, and programs to protect Illinois’ seniors,” Frerichs said.
Cross told those on Wednesday morning House GOP conference call that he expected to surrender his leadership role sometime in October, setting the stage for a leadership fight between state Rep. Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) and state Rep. Raymond Poe (R-Springfield).
Cross’ tenure as the top Illinois House Republican has been marked by political frustration. Since taking over from former House Minority Leader Lee Daniels in 2002, Cross has toiled under a Democratic legislative map and has failed to amass a majority over five consecutive election cycles.
The closest he came was in 2010, when Republicans hoped to capitalize on the political vacuum left by Blagojevich’s 2009 impeachment and ouster from office. But the House GOP took 54 House seats, well short of the 60 needed to wrest control of the House gavel from Madigan.
Cross’ poorest electoral showing came in the 2012 cycle, when Republicans held onto only 47 seats, giving Madigan and the House Democrats a rare veto-proof majority and making the House GOP nearly irrelevant.
Cross, 55, was stymied in his bid to bring about pension reform. He lent his name to a series of efforts to reel in state pension benefits to solve Illinois’ $100 billion-plus pension crisis. But his efforts weren’t strong enough to break through deep-seated legislative inertia on the issue that pitted Madigan against Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) and get a package to Gov. Pat Quinn’s desk.