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How Terri Bryant won back the GOP leadership

  • State Rep. Terri Bryant

    State Rep. Terri Bryant

By Renee Trappe
updated: 3/28/2018 4:25 PM

State Rep. Terri Bryant said the Republican leadership warned her last summer: Help end the state budget impasse by voting with Democrats to override Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto, and you won't get a dime from the state GOP for your 2018 campaign.

She did it anyway. And along with losing her party's funding, the conservative legislator from Murphysboro fully expected to be "primaried" -- challenged in the March primary by a candidate even more conservative than herself.

Bryant, running for her third term in the state House, did get the primary challenge she expected. On Tuesday she beat Republican businessman Paul Jacobs of Pomona with about 55 percent of the vote.

Instead of being shut out of party money, however, Bryant got at least $175,000 from the Illinois Republican Party and the House Republican Organization, according to donations reported to the Illinois State Board of Elections between Jan. 1 and March 16, 2018.

How did that happen?

Bryant said the GOP's change of heart came after she explained to the party leadership and some conservative organizations that southern Illinois was being disproportionately harmed by the budget impasse -- and that even the region's university was in danger of losing accreditation.

She said the Republican leadership didn't have much understanding of southern Illinois.

"There's an assumption that when you are involved in politics at a high level you know the whole state," Bryant said. "But people calling the shots don't always understand the different regions.

"When I sat down with the state party apparatus, I told them we have a university, five community colleges, three IDOT facilities, three (Medicare/Medicaid) facilities and three mental health facilities. All of them have state employees, for whom the health insurance hasn't been paid for two years."

Moreover, Bryant said she voted for a tax increase that every "true conservative" knew was coming.

"I always intended to run again," Bryant said. "I believe I was doing the right thing for the right reason.

"If I lost the primary at least I could say I didn't let my university close, or allowed more damage to come to the social service agencies in my area."

She also won endorsements from the National Rifle Association and the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.

First elected to the House in 2014, Bryant won the primary over Jacobs 4,608 votes to 3,709. All vote totals are unofficial until they are canvassed.

The 115th District takes in all or part of Jackson, Perry, Washington and Union counties.

Now, Bryant again will face Democrat Marsha Griffin, a teacher and activist from Jonesboro. Bryant defeated Griffin in 2016 with 55.1 percent of the vote.

Bryant said being able to vote her conscience in Springfield and then survive the primary puts her closer to the position of being a trusted voice for southern Illinois.

"That's what I want," she said. "I want to have the kind of regard that (former state Sen.) Dave Luechtefeld has, and be a voice for this region."