By DOUG IBENDAHL • April 8, 2012
On Wednesday night, April 18th, Republicans in each of Illinois’ 102 counties will convene for a convention. State law requires that each county party do so every two years. It’s essentially a reorganization meeting for each county party.
Each County GOP organization will elect a Republican county chairman as well as any other officers the county party might have (treasurer, secretary, etc.).
Only Republican precinct committeemen elected on March 20th have a vote at the convention.
The one exception is Cook County where precinct committeemen aren’t elected. Instead it’s the 50 GOP ward committeemen from the City of Chicago, and the 30 GOP township committeemen from suburban Cook who get to vote for a new county chair.
Illinois law prevents committeemen from being appointed during the 30-day window between the March 20 primary election and the county conventions. This “blackout” period prevents an incumbent county chairman from trying to stack the deck with lackeys at the convention. It’s a good law that provides at least some protection from the self-dealers.
We had tremendous success this year recruiting new committeemen candidates across the state through the Republican Precinct Project. If you ran for one of these volunteer positions and won on March 20 – congratulations – and kudos to everyone who stood-up and got more involved in the arena. Now it’s time to go out and make a difference at your county convention.
If you’ve got a county chairman who is doing a good job, and she or he is running again – that’s great news. Maybe you’ll decide to help reelect that person for another term. But if you’ve got an incumbent who is not so good, is not responsive, doesn’t return phone calls, isn’t trying to build the party, or whatever – then you may reasonably decide it’s time for some spring cleaning in your local party.
Candidates for county chairman are working the phones right now around the state contacting the newly-elected committeemen who will have a vote on April 18. But it’s definitely not too late for someone to throw her or his hat in the ring. And every county should be following a procedure where nominations for county party office are taken from the floor on the night of the convention.
Even if you aren’t an elected committeeman with a vote, you might still want to attend your county’s convention on April 18 just to see what it’s about. The event should be open to all Republicans to observe in every county. For full details on time and location in your county, contact your County Republican Party. Contact information for all 102 organizations can be found HERE.
This year there will be some additional drama – and something for all voters to keep an eye on – in those 14 counties comprising the newly-drawn 13th Congressional District. With U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson’s recent announcement that he’s not running again after all, his Republican replacement on the November ballot must be picked. Since Illinois law says that only those 14 GOP county chairmen in that Congressional District have a vote on the replacement, the stakes are higher at those county conventions on the 18th (assuming of course the Johnson replacement vote isn’t rushed through prior to that date).
Shame on Congressman Johnson for not announcing his retirement sooner and allowing all Republican primary voters to have made the replacement choice on March 20. I really thought he of all GOP officials was better than this. Johnson’s post-primary announcement has now opened the door to all kinds of backroom games and secret horse-trading. Unfortunately Republicans in that district have no choice now except to try and make the best of it.
And then there are places like Cook County where unless more Republicans get serious in a hurry, the GOP is poised to continue dysfunction on a unique level come April 18. More on that subject later.
After Illinois’ 102 county conventions on April 18, Republicans next move to the State Republican Convention on June 8th and 9th. This time it’s being held in Tinley Park. State law requires the party to have a state convention once every four years.
Absent that legal requirement, many of our old officials would likely choose not to have a state convention at all. The last one (Decatur in 2008) was an incredibly rigged disaster that did tremendous harm to our party, and it was all thanks to many of the same GOP officials and operatives who are still hanging around today.
We’ll obviously have more on the state convention as it gets closer. Right now step-one is for serious Republicans to make what progress they can at their local county convention on April 18th.
Doug Ibendahl is a Chicago Attorney and a former General Counsel of the Illinois Republican Party.