Why the Illinois GOP has Republicans worried nationally

By DOUG IBENDAHL • April 15, 2012


This Wednesday night all 102 counties in Illinois will hold party conventions where elected committeemen will elect a new county chairman and other county party officials. This takes place every two years.


And on June 8th and 9th, Illinois Republicans will converge on Tinley Park for the Illinois Republican State Convention, an event which only happens every four years.


But unless you’re a reader of Republican News Watch or an elected committeeman, you likely have no clue about these big events. Cook, the Illinois county with the most Republicans by far, doesn’t have a peep about its convention on its website. Same is true with the GOP’s website for DuPage, the county with the second most Republicans.


Even the State GOP’s homepage is silent about these big events. Yes, if you search and dig around a few clicks to the events calendar, you can eventually find a listing for the state convention. It gets the same attention as a local coffee klatch.


Our Illinois GOP’s website is perhaps best known for being the state party site that doesn’t use “Republican” or “GOP” in the domain name. The powers-that-be went with “WeAreIllinois.org” instead – or as wags call it, “Weary Illinois.”


Now compare just a few of the State GOP sites from places where Republican officials are serious and note how their upcoming conventions get major promotion: Republican Party of Iowa, Republican Party of Texas, Republican Party of Wisconsin, and Georgia Republican Party.


Meanwhile, as POLITICO reported last week, Illinois represents one of a small handful of states where the GOP is so weak and in such disarray, the National Party is being forced to intervene out of fear that ineptitude at the state level might jeopardize Republican control of Congress.


National GOP officials are right to be extremely worried about Illinois. While the Illinois GOP heads for disaster, last month State GOP Chairman Pat Brady was injecting himself into a relatively insignificant 3-way race for Chicago ward committeeman – even going so far as doing State Party funded robocalls for Brady’s 23-year-old frat boy candidate. (Brady’s candidate lost by 10 points.) And in the contested Republican Primary for Kane County Board Chairman, Pat Brady didn’t just endorse, he served as campaign chairman for his guy. (Brady’s guy lost that one by 40 points.)


House Minority Leader Tom Cross had a similar problem convincing Republican voters to listen to him. At least two incumbent members of Cross’ State House caucus lost to Republican challengers. Up north David McSweeney beat incumbent Kent Gaffney. And downstate, newcomer Charlie Meier defeated incumbent Paul Evans.


Well as the Good Book says, “As ye sow, so shall ye reap.”


Pat Brady and Tom Cross have spent most of their time, years in fact, trying to PREVENT Republicans from voting – i.e. lying and cheating in opposition to the direct election reform (SB 35).


When two of your top party officials think the biggest problem with the Republican Party is that Republicans are participating too much – yes, you can probably expect big problems.


The State GOP couldn’t close the deal in 2010 – the most pro-GOP year nationally in our lifetime – even with the Democratic ticket headed by Rod Blagojevich’s old running mate running on a promise to massively raise the state income tax. Republicans secured no seats at the map drawing table, and now the GOP is saddled with a bad map and an impending election where Barack Obama will head the Democratic ticket in his home state.


Refusing to publicize upcoming conventions doesn’t seem like the right response. But closing people out is what insecure officials do. Guys like Brady and Cross know that an energized party would demand something better.


National GOP leaders get it. They’re recognizing that unless something is done, seats lost in Illinois could make the difference in control of Congress. So they’re sending in the cavalry from out of state.


That may help with a few of the congressional races, but unless Republicans here at home get serious, the Democrats have a good chance of securing veto-proof majorities in both the State House and Senate come November. Although many would say Cross’ State House GOP caucus can’t get more pointless than it is now.


I’m critical here of Pat Brady and Tom Cross, but really the blame rests with all Republicans. The GOP in Illinois only stays in disarray because too many Republicans lack the courage to fight for something better.


Doug Ibendahl is a Chicago Attorney and a former General Counsel of the Illinois Republican Party.


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