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Curran is watching the “balance” as he prepares to lead the Illinois Senate GOP minority < Illinois

Senate Minority Leader-elect John Curran will inherit a caucus more than doubled in size by majority-party Democrats.

His goal: “Bring balance to the state government.”

“Because with that balance, we’re going to get better outcomes for working families in all of Illinois communities,” Curran said in an interview with Capitol News Illinois during the first week of the veto session, a day after he was elected the GOP’s next minority leader .

The Republican from the southwestern suburb of Downers Grove has been a member of the General Assembly since 2017. In January, he will take over from Minority Leader Dan McConchie, a Hawthorn Woods Republican who was selected to office in November 2020 but whose caucus chose a new route by electing Curran this week.

“There’s no pivot,” Curran said. “We’re all sitting around a table, that’s a bunch of people changing seats, just a bunch of different roles as we move on. But you know, this is really about us being a unified group.”

Curran brings a track record of working with Democrats to his leadership role as the caucus seeks a likely 40-19 Democratic majority.

“Our obstacles are sometimes the majority party’s failure to meaningfully respect and include the minority party in public policy discussions,” Curran said. “As an individual legislator, I have found ways to meaningfully participate in this process and get members across the aisle to respect my policy goals and include them in the final product. We have to do that as a caucus.”

He was the only Republican to side with Democrats in Springfield when the governor signed into law a health care bill backed by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus in 2021. He was also a leading voice in efforts to drastically reduce Illinois’ allowable emissions of ethylene oxide, a cancer-causing gas used in the sterilization of medical supplies and linked to an increased risk of cancer in the Willowbrook area .

“Members from both sides of the aisle have worked together to solve this public health crisis,” he said. “If you’re not safe in your community, either from a health perspective or from a public safety perspective, personal safety perspective, you know we’re letting you down.”

As Democrats worked to pass a transformative energy policy, the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, which subsidizes renewable and nuclear generators while aiming to take fossil fuel producers off the grid over the next two decades, Curran was one of two Republicans who voted “Yes”.

“Reliable, sustainable energy is one of the imperatives we have,” he said. “We had to start these nuclear power plants. And that’s when I came to this topic. We need nuclear power in the state of Illinois. It’s clean. It’s reliable. And in all honesty, that’s one of the big advantages we have.”

Other benefits, he said, include transportation infrastructure, clean drinking water, cheap, reliable energy, and a highly skilled workforce.

“We have some great benefits that attract employers to Illinois,” he said. “We’re promising, but we also have some regulatory issues that we need to address in order to continue growing and attracting more investment and more jobs to Illinois.”

A former Cook County assistant attorney and DuPage County executive vice chairman, he was the leading Senate GOP voice on the ethics reforms Democrats passed in 2021 and spoke to reporters one-on-one about how he worked with the majority party to strengthen the bill .

He was also an opponent of criminal justice reform known as the SAFE-T Act, arguing that while he wasn’t opposed to ending bail in cash, he believed the system that would replace it had several shortcomings.

“It was an extreme law,” he said. “It was heavily geared towards the extremes of their base and endangers public safety. Republican involvement in this process will help offset that. There is no reason why we cannot be fair and just while protecting public safety.”

Aside from sending a message of balance, he said he will be actively involved in Republican fundraising to diversify donations from just one or two mega donors. In recent election cycles, the two biggest donors to the state GOP were shipping magnate Richard Uihlein and hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin, who recently moved his business to Florida.

While Uihlein’s money has often been used to elevate the party’s more conservative votes, such as State Senator Darren Bailey, who lost the gubernatorial election by a wide margin to incumbent Democrat JB Pritzker, Curran said it helped the Senate GOP.

“Mr. Uihlein, we were very fortunate, invested heavily in the Republican candidates for the Illinois Senate, and they were not extreme candidates. These were candidates who were modeled to represent the districts in which they ran,” said “We certainly welcome Mr. Uihlein’s investment in our cause, but we definitely need to diversify our fundraising going forward.”

Curran’s interview came a day after former President Donald Trump announced another bid for the White House in 2024. The former president, who is the subject of multiple criminal investigations, lost Illinois by 900,000 to more than 1 million votes in its two elections.

But Curran said he doesn’t think Trump’s announcement would make his job any harder.

“No national figure should fail to represent who the Illinois Republican Party is to our citizens, whom we seek to represent,” he said. “So we have to be strong enough and we are strong enough to present ourselves in a way that leads to meaningful participation in the state.”

That includes reshaping the abortion issue, Curran said.

“We need to do a better job on the abortion message,” he said. “You know, the reality is, what else can we do here in Illinois? Illinois laws are more focused on abortion rights guarantees than any other state in the nation. It doesn’t go any further.”

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide and hundreds of radio and television stations. It is primarily funded by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

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