Former Illinois governor Jim Edgar -- the last man to leave the Governor's mansion without an indictment -- built a reputation during his tenure of practicing a moderate, level-headed politics that appealed to Democrats and Republicans alike.
Now, more than ten years out of office, the Republican continues to defy the expectations of his party.
At a speech at Elmhurst College on Thursday, Edgar again panned Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady's budget proposal, while praising Democratic Governor Pat Quinn for his proposed tax increase. Brady has made opposition to the tax increase a major plank of his campaign.
From the Daily Herald's coverage of the talk:
"There is no easy way out of the mess we are in," Edgar told about 200 people in a speech on leadership at Elmhurst College. "I give Governor Quinn credit for having the courage to call for a tax increase in an election year."
Edgar said he believed that state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington is sincere in his pledge not to raise taxes, but ultimately he will find there is no other way out of the state's $13 billion-and-growing shortfall.
Asked after the speech if Brady's budget plans - cutting taxes and services to balance the budget - were realistic, Edgar said Brady needs to "flush out his budget policies" more.
Edgar has previously called Brady's plan for a 10 percent across-the-board cut "naive," which he conceded Thursday led to angry calls from Brady backers.
"I know that upsets their camp when I say that," Edgar said to laughter from the students, teachers and residents.
Elsewhere on a busy Thursday for the ex-governor, Edgar launched a new coalition with 200 local businesses to lobby the federal government for immigration reform.
Edgar made two arguments to the business-owners gathered at Chicago's Merchandise Mart as to why a path to legalization for immigrants is a good idea.
First, he argued that "legalization would generate $1.5 trillion in economic gains for the country over the next decade," the Tribune reports. Second, he argued that by opposing immigration reforms, the Republican party risked alienating Hispanic voters nationwide.
"If the immigrant community views us as a party that is hostile to them ... we just can't afford that," he said, again according to the Tribune.
Also on Thursday, Mark Kirk reiterated his support for stem cell research. In doing so, he appears to be taking a page out of the Jim Edgar playbook for Republican success in Illinois, trying to shore up his "moderate" credibility. Bill Brady, the other Republican at the top of the ticket, is taking the opposite tack, keeping a hard right-wing line.
Both are polling well so far. It remains to be seen if either strategy will bring a Republican back to statewide office come November.
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