SPRINGFIELD -- Republican Bill Brady lost the gubernatorial election because his political views, particularly on social issues, are too far to the right, former Gov. Jim Edgar told a post-election forum Tuesday.

SPRINGFIELD -- Republican Bill Brady lost the gubernatorial election because his political views, particularly on social issues, are too far to the right, former Gov. Jim Edgar told a post-election forum Tuesday.


“To me, there’s only one election – that’s governor. … We kind of missed our opportunity,” said Edgar, a Republican who served two terms as governor from 1991 to 1999. “We should have won the governorship.”


Edgar said he had believed Brady would pull out a narrow victory until about 11:30 p.m. on election night.


While it was a good night for Republicans in terms of gaining seats in the legislature and two constitutional offices, “unfortunately, I don’t think the Republican Party is back,” Edgar said.


“A good Republican year in Illinois is not going to be like it used to be,” Edgar said. “Illinois is a Democratic state. It’s been demographics, and it’s often been a little bit about the Republican Party moving to the right when the majority of the voters in Illinois have moved to the left.”


Republicans Judy Baar Topinka and Dan Rutherford won the comptroller’s and treasurer’s offices, respectively. Republicans gained six seats in the Illinois House and two seats in the Illinois Senate. They also won at least three U.S. House seats held by Democrats and may win Democratic Rep. Melissa Bean’s seat.


Edgar spoke on a panel put together by the University of Illinois’ Institute of Government and Public Affairs that also included Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown and IGPA political scientists Brian Gaines and Nicole Kazee.


 


Collar counties key


The battleground in Illinois is now the Chicago suburban collar counties, Edgar said, and Brady didn’t get enough votes there.


“The suburbs are the key,” Edgar said. “Most areas of suburban Cook are very difficult for a Republican to win.”


While Brady ran a better, more disciplined campaign than Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, Edgar said, the party needs to understand that to win in Illinois, its candidates have to be moderate.


“It doesn’t do any good to win a primary,” Edgar said. “You can’t move to the right, no matter what my conservative friends believe.”


Edgar said he split the Hispanic vote when he ran, but Hispanic votes are increasingly lost to Republicans because of the party’s stance on illegal immigration. Edgar supports finding a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, while many in his party want to deport all of them.


Much of the population growth in the suburbs has been Hispanic, he said.


“We have to find a way to appeal to those groups. Otherwise, we’re going to go the way of the Whig Party,” Edgar said.


 


Democrats dodged bullet


Kazee said legislative Democrats in Illinois were fortunate not to suffer the fate of their counterparts in the U.S. House, who were booted out of office because of a bad economy.


“Illinois voters really didn’t show a lot of willingness to punish the legislature and the governor for inaction,” Kazee said. “Democrats really dodged a bullet here.”


One thing Quinn proved is that running on a platform to increase taxes does not doom a candidacy, Edgar said. He also noted that state Sen. Michael Noland, D-Elgin, appears to have won his race after having voted to increase the income tax from 3 percent to 5 percent and expand the sales tax base.


“Quinn’s victory makes it much more palatable to vote for an income tax increase,” Edgar said.


Edgar, who said previously that Quinn was courageous for proposing a tax increase in an election year, said he won’t get involved with the issue in Springfield unless Quinn comes up with a comprehensive plan to get the state out of its fiscal mess.


“You’ve got to look at cuts,” Edgar said. “It can’t be piecemeal. I’d be happy to support an overall plan that includes cutting and tax increases. … He’s going to have to learn how to say ‘no.’”


 


Chris Wetterich can be reached at 788-1523.