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House Republicans Elect New Leader
Republicans have elected a new leader in the Illinois House. Rep. Jim Durkin will serve in the top Republican position - House minority leader - starting next month.
The decision was unanimous. One representative calls it a "new beginning," and a "united front" for the Republicans.
"I'm excited about the possibilities for the future," Durkin said.
The newly-elected House minority leader has represented the western suburbs of Chicago at the Capitol for 15 years.
His challenger for the top Republican post dropped out of the race ahead of Thursday's vote, citing a need for party unity.
The race had created what one political expert calls "open warfare" among different sections of the party.
"I knew today that so happened my votes weren't here," said Rep. Raymond Poe. "There were seven people missing, and for the welfare and the unity of the party, I don't think we need any of these scrapes, scrabbles."
"I think that speaks volumes about where this caucus is at," Durkin said.
"There's no divisiveness. We're a unified group. We're going to use that energy to move forward, win races and get out of the super minority."
As House minority leader, Durkin will serve as the key person trying to recruit candidates for office, raise money and build membership.
UIS Political Studies Professor Kent Redfield says there's a lot at stake.
"This has the potential to be a very divisive kind of position," Redfield said. "And if it's a very divisive, where you kind of expose fault lines in the GOP, it makes it harder to grow the party and be effective in terms of picking up seats in 2014."
Durkin will also lead the Republican caucus at the Capitol.
"You're trying to make your members individually as effective as possible, but you're also trying to act as a team, and there will be times you'd like all the Republican house members to vote in the same direction or not vote on a particular bill," Durkin said.
Rep. Wayne Rosenthal said he's confident Durkin understands the issues important downstate.
"As long as we'll continue to have an input so he understands the impact downstate, I think that's the most important part of it," Rosenthal said.
Durkin said he'll transition into the new role in the next three to four weeks.
He said he hasn't made any decisions on who will be part of his leadership team. But, he says it will be geographically and demographically balanced.
Durkin will replace Tom Cross, who recently announced he'll step down to run for statewide office. Cross served as House Minority leader for a decade.