The GOP plans to turn Peoria County and Illinois red by getting out the vote
Peoria County Republican Party chairman Chuck Weaver says he has a plan to turn the county board red.
"It's a very simple number. We have 14,000 Republicans that don't get out and vote. We got to take 8,000 of those and get them out to vote," said Weaver at last week's Peoria and Tazewell County Republican Lincoln Day Dinner. "They're sitting there. We just got to get them out. We've got to do it through our ground game."
Weaver said Peoria County Republicans are aggressively recruiting. He said they now have 99 precinct committeemen, compared to a third of that total just a year ago.
Democrats currently hold a 10-8 majority on the Peoria County Board.
Weaver said his goal is to replicate the electoral success of the Tazewell County Republican Central Committee. In the last election cycle, the GOP gained full control of the 21-member county board there. The party wiped out the Democratic slate for County Board District 1, which includes Pekin. Republicans also hold all countywide elected offices in Tazewell County.
Weaver is a former Peoria City Council member and state senator.
Under Weaver's tenure leading the local party apparatus, the Peoria County GOP also has gotten more involved in non-partisan Peoria City Council elections, endorsing at-large incumbents Zach Oyler, John Kelly, and Kiran Velpula as the party's picks. All three were re-elected.
Peoria County is a pale blue dot in the greater Illinois electoral landscape. It was a Biden county in 2020. In 2022, the county voted for incumbent Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker over Republican challenger Darren Bailey. However, the county's voters also picked Republican attorney general candidate Tom DeVore and Secretary of State candidate Dan Brady over the Democratic competition.
Tazewell County consistently votes Republican in national and state-level elections. Illinois as a whole is deep blue. The last time the state voted for a Republican presidential candidate was George H.W. Bush in 1988.
Illinois Republican Party Chairman Don Tracy encouraged Republicans to embrace vote by mail and early voting. Many in the party have skeptically eyed vote by mail in particular amid concerns of potential voter fraud.
"You need to do that so we can bank your votes. And we can focus on other people with our get-out-the-vote efforts," he said.
Tazewell County Republican Chairman Jim Rule agreed, saying it's time for the party to embrace vote by mail.
"A lot of people say the only time I vote is on election day, and that's fine. But if you can't get to that ballot box, if you can't get to the polling station, then we lose your vote. And we lose. So, it's very important that we accept vote by mail. It's very important that we accept ballot harvesting."
Tazewell County Clerk John Ackerman is serving as an emissary of sorts for that message by speaking at Lincoln Day Dinners around the state, encouraging alternative voting methods and assuring Republicans of local election integrity.