From Illinois Public Radio - News Local/State -

Durkin New Leader Of Illinois GOP

Jim Durkin

Illinois Rep. Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, ask questions during the Illinois House Impeachment Committee Hearing at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Ill., Monday, Dec. 29, 2008. (Seth Perlman/AP)

Republican members of the Illinois House have a new leader: longtime Rep. Jim Durkin of suburban Western Springs.

Lawmakers met in Springfield on Thursday to choose a replacement for outgoing House Minority Leader Tom Cross.

Republicans are not just the minority party in the Illinois House. They are in the super-minority, with 47 members to Democrats' 71. Durkin said he will work to slim those margins.

"We have a very diverse caucus, but you know, we're going to use that diversity to our advantage this next coming cycle," Durkin said. "I'm excited about the prospects of the future."

He also said he will work to bring House Republicans together, despite splits on social issues like same-sex marriage, which Durkin said he opposes. Ther i's also a suburban versus downstate divide — amplified in Durkin's battle with Springfield Rep. Raymond Poe for the leadership post. But when the vote took place, both men presented a united front — it was Poe who nominated Durkin in the closed-door meeting.

Durkin has been in the Illinois House since 1995, except for when he left in 2002 to run for U.S. Senate. He is a former prosecutor, and played a key role in the impeachment of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Durkin said he will formally take over sometime next month. Rep. Cross is stepping down from his leadership post and is expected to run for state treasurer.

Categories: Government, Politics