County Politics

Rebuilding in Madison County

By James Grandone

The Madison Co. Administration Building
  EDWARDSVILLE - 11/20/2020 - “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades” is a song by one-hit-wonder Timbuk 3 in 1986. To hear the heads of the Republican and Democratic parties talk about the future, they both have their Ray-Bans on.
    I spoke with Ray Wesley, chairman of the Madison County Republican Party (@GOPMADISONCOUNTY) and Randy Harris, newly minted chairman of the Madison County Democratic Party (@MadcoDems) after the 2020 general election. Both were optimistic about the future prospects of their party in coming elections and both cited shortcomings and strengths. But they had very different messages.

    Wesley’s Republicans are coming off a heady success at the county level that saw President Donald Trump win handily with more than 75,000 votes against former Vice President Joe Biden who got just below 57,000 votes. Countywide offices saw similar results and the party took most of the open positions at the county board level as well.

    Harris attributes the loss to the media and the national headlines. “People just came out and voted for Trump.” Democrats are looking to the future and plan to “reorganize, reach out and message” to attract the blue-collar workers the party has lost starting in the 2010 election and going forward.

    “We put out a very good, robust message around issues important to local Democrats,” said Harris. “It’s all about how we’re going to help the blue-collar workers who get up and go to work every day.”

   Wesley’s party’s message was simple: fiscally conservative philosophy coupled with lower taxes and less government. “We are the No. 1 taxed state in the country, and we are trying to save every dollar for taxpayers.” I think Californians would take exception to that statement, but there it is.

    Harris is skeptical about the Republicans’ tax-cutting and wants to know what services will be eliminated when the revenue isn’t there to pay for them. To him, it’s a quality of life issue. His point is well made, in that many of the services that Madison County residents enjoy are the same amenities that attract young families to live here.

    The Republican leader emphasizes cutting the budget, lowering the tax levy and maintaining services.

   “We want less government, lower taxes and to protect the integrity of taxpayers’ money, “Wesley said.

   To back that up, he said that when he was first elected to the county board in 2016, the tax bill for the county was “around 10 to 11 percent and today, it’s around seven percent.”

    Both parties’ arguments are compelling. People want the services but don’t want to pay the property taxes that are needed to support them.

    From a political point of view, the Democrats are facing an uphill battle for the hearts and minds of the blue-collar worker whose interests they say they represent but who feel the tax pinch, as well as the headwind of a national media that has had Trump in the news every day since he was elected. While Republicans, as Wesley said, are going to settle into their new offices and not disappoint the voters who put their confidence in them.

    Both say they are optimistic but that there is a lot of work ahead in building their organizations.


Jim Grandone
Jim Grandone is a long-time resident of Edwardsville, Ill. He was the architect of the 'East County...If You Only Knew' marketing campaign promoting the Metro East to businesses in St. Louis in the 1990s. Grandone holds a BA in political science from the University of Illinois at Springfield and was a Coro Fellow and serves on a variety of boards. He lives in Leclaire with his wife, Mary. 
Reprinted with permission. This article originally ran in the 
Edwardsville Intelligencer