By Benjamin Yount
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Forget about the tea party, or the Republican Party or the Democratic Party — candidates seeking office in 2014 are going to have to do more to woo individual voters than perhaps ever before.
The 2014 races in Illinois are showing early signs of a deep split in both major parties. Voters on the wings, to the hard left for Democrats and to the right for Republicans, are increasingly unhappy with “establishment” candidates in the middle of both parties.
“The battle lines are no longer Republican versus Democrats,” former congressman turned political activist Joe Walsh told Illinois Watchdog. “The new battle lines are either people who believe in freedom, limited government … and personal responsibility. Or people who believe in big government.”
Walsh added that he believes all Democrats want big government, and that “too many Republicans (also) believe in big government.”
Walsh, who said he’s “thinking” about a run for office in 2014, is forming a statewide organization to support conservative candidates.
“We’re only supporting candidates who agree to do five things: cut my taxes, diminish the role of government in my life, get rid of this debt, respect my God-given rights and be a citizen legislator,” Walsh said.
“There is a strong anti-establishment mood right now,” said Mike Lawrence, a longtime political reporter before he joined former Gov. Jim Edgar’s staff. “There has been a strong feeling that the state is on the wrong path. I don’t get the sense that voters are blaming one party or the other — they are blaming everyone.”
Lawrence said Illinois Republicans have become more conservative because the party has been shut out of statewide office for most of the past decade.
Erika Harold, who is running against incumbent GOP Congressman Rodney Davis, said voters to which she has spoken don’t fuss about labels of Republican or Democrat.
“There really is a sense among voters … there’s anti-establishment sentiment,” Harold said. “People not even identifying themselves as part of the establishment.”
Lawrence said some of that is cyclical as voters often get frustrated with “political insiders.” But he believes there’s also a generational shift.
“I think younger voters have a strong libertarian bent,” Lawrence said. “Younger voters don’t identify with one party or the other.”
Walsh said that means candidates are going to have to earn votes one person at a time, and one issue at a time.
“I don’t care if you’re running for county board or Congress, conservatives now are only going to support candidates (who are truly conservative),” Walsh said. “If you simply have an R behind your name … you’re not going to get conservative support.”
Contact Benjamin Yount at Ben@IllinoisWatchdog.org and find him on Twitter @BenYount.
Posted Sept. 16, 2013