A recently-retired Republican lawmaker is searching for leadership inside his party.
Former State Senator Tim Bivins, R-Dixon, represented the 45th District in far northwestern Illinois for the past ten years. He announced last year he would not run for re-election and stepped down from his seat earlier this month.
Bivins is hard-pressed to identify who’s leading the Illinois GOP, following disappointing results at the ballot box in November.
“The easy answer would be to say we’re a rudderless ship,” Bivins said. “There doesn’t seem to be much leadership. And when you abandon the party platform and the principles that a lot of us believe in … I think there was a lot of devastation to the Republican party with this current governor.”
Tim Schneider, chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, said in a statement that the party has clear priorities for the future that include picking new leaders.
“The Illinois Republican Party is focused on organizing and electing a new generation of Republican leaders who advocate for the critical policy solutions our state desperately needs – like a balanced budget, cuts to spending, lower taxes, pension reform, fair maps, and term limits,” Schneider said. “Furthermore, the Party will work tirelessly to hold Governor-elect Pritzker, Speaker Madigan, and President Cullerton accountable as they take office in the coming weeks.”
Bivins said an overlooked problem of the past few years has been the overreliance on one person to fund party activities.
“People are reluctant to give money when they think someone can just write a check and take care of everything,” Bivins said. “We saw contributions drop significantly over the last four years because we had someone to give that money and others didn’t have to. Suddenly that dried up, and here we are.”
According to a Chicago Tribune report, Citizens for Rauner donated $16 million to the Illinois Republican Party in 2016. A recent analysis by the Daily Herald found Gov. Bruce Rauner contributed more than $7 million to the Illinois GOP in 2017 and the first nine months of 2018.
Looking to the future, Bivins says someone like State Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, could step up and take on the leadership mantle.
“It’s going to take people with vision, knowledge and the ability to step back and see where the Republican party needs to go,” Bivins said. “There’s an opportunity here for someone to fill that gap and fill the void.”
November’s election results shut Republicans out of statewide offices and gave Democrats a supermajority in the House and Senate. Bivins said he laments the forthcoming lack a balance in Springfield.
“One party can do pretty much whatever they want,” Bivins said. “And what they want, usually, is to increase spending, increase programs, and more giveaways to stay in power. That’s not good for the state and that’s not good for the taxpayer.”
The 66-year-old Bivins pointed to the passage of “Erin’s Law” as his biggest accomplishment during this time in Springfield. The legislation was signed into
law in 2011 and mandates that children from pre-kindergarten to grade 12 are taught how they can avoid being a victim of sexual abuse and how they can report it if they are a victim.
“Very proud of that,” Bivins said. “[The law] breaks the cycle of silence and abuse. It gets help for these kids when they are younger and not older. People will go for decades having never said a word about being abused as a child.”
Illinois was the first state to pass “Erin’s Law,” which now is on the books in 35 states.
As for regrets, Bivins said he has second thoughts about his vote to support then-state Rep. Frank Mautino as Illinois’ Auditor General.
“Just before the vote, I was on the fence,” Bivins said. “Everyone on both sides was telling me it would be an OK appointment and he was a stand-up guy. I did vote for him, but should have listened to that little voice on my shoulder. A few weeks later all his campaign finance problems came out.”
The Illinois State Board of Election later fined a campaign fundraising account linked to Mautino after ruling officials failed to cooperate by withholding documents to provide explanations for more than $400,000 in campaign spending.
In his retirement, Bivins has started a small voice-over business. He also plans to spend more time with his grandkids and volunteer more often at his church.