Members of the Tea Party say they are non-partisan, but their success, especially in a Democratically controlled state like Illinois, depends largely on electing Republicans. My story from Illinois Issues.
To many Tea Party leaders in Illinois, state government needs more people like Arie Friedman.
A pediatrician from Highland Park, Friedman first entered politics just two years ago to protest the passage of President Barack Obama’s federal health care law. Friedman is a business owner, a Navy veteran, a conservative and a candidate for the Illinois Senate. He says he does not need a job as a career politician — joining the state Senate likely would mean a pay cut — and he has no plans to do it forever. Most of all, though, Friedman is fed up with how the state is being run.
But if all that makes Friedman a good Tea Party candidate, it also makes him a good fit in today’s Republican Party. As he campaigns for the state Senate, Friedman has met plenty of folks serving on Republican township boards and showing up at Tea Party meetings. “It’s the exact same people,” he says. “One meeting a month is not enough for them.
“There is a sense that the Tea Party is a separate part of the Republican Party,” he says, “but that has not been my experience. There’s a lot of crossover.”
Still, many leading Tea Party activists in Illinois want to turn their attention to state government during the 2012 elections.
Illinois Tea Party leaders recognized that state government remained firmly in Democratic hands, once Quinn squeaked by Republican Bill Brady to hold onto the governorship. So some 40 Illinois Tea Party leaders gathered on November 20, 2010, at a Lisle hotel to take stock. “We basically decided as a state Tea Party that we would allow some of these other states that had things better under control to work on the federal issues,” says Jane Carrell, coordinator of the Tea Party of Northern Illinois, which is based near Rockford, “while we focused more on our corrupt, lousy state of Illinois and helped to elect a different legislature next election.”