SPRINGFIELD — State Sen. Kyle McCarter is trying to round up enough votes to become the Senate's Republican leader, and says the party needs to do a better job of appealing to groups of voters who have generally swayed toward Democratic candidates.
In order to become minority leader, McCarter, R-Lebanon, would need to get 10 votes when Republican senators hold a private caucus meeting Wednesday night in Springfield. Following the election earlier this month, the party has 19 seats in the Senate, compared to 40 seats held by Democrats.
The Senate's current GOP leader is Sen. Christine Radogno, R-Lemont.
The GOP in Illinois had a poor showing in the election: Democrats will now have super-majorities in both the Senate and the House. McCarter said he hopes to give the party new life and help get more Republicans elected to the Senate.
"I think the last election speaks for itself. Our caucus needs someone to lead with energy and a vision for a successful Republican caucus," McCarter said. "I'm willing to lead, so that's why I stepped up."
When asked if he thinks he has enough votes, McCarter replied: "If I didn't think I had a chance, I wouldn't run."
McCarter said there's not necessarily a big difference in political philosophies between himself and Radogno.
"What this is about is, Republicans have gone through a really bad, bad election cycle and are looking at themselves and saying, 'How do we win?' We have to do a better job of articulating our message of smaller government and lower taxes, and opportunities for people to be able to go back to work," he said. "We've got to do a better job of articulating that, not just to our traditional base, but we've got to reach out to women, to young people and to minorities, and give them a reason to vote for us."
Radogno said Republicans had a bad year in many places, not just Illinois.
"I think that Republicans in general need to do some good introspection into what's working and what's not working," Radogno said. "I still have a good deal of passion for the issues that face this state."
She added, "I welcome Sen. McCarter into the discussion. I think it's always helpful for people to look at what they have and what they might have. I am cautiously optimistic as we move forward."
McCarter, a business owner, has been a senator since 2009. Radogno has been a senator since 1997 and is the first female caucus leader in the history of the Illinois General Assembly.