Here’s how your county’s been doing in electing GOP Precinct Committeemen

By DOUG IBENDAHL • November 17, 2013


The good news is that with the 2012 election, the statewide vacancy rate for elected Republican Precinct Committeemen fell below 50% for the first time in memory. (It was close. The current statewide vacancy rate for elected Republican Precinct Committeemen stands at 49.0%.)


The percentage improved a bit from 2010 thanks to a few counties which did a better job. The calculation was also helped by the elimination/consolidation of a few hundred precincts statewide after the most recent remap, including a significant number in the large counties of Lake and Will.


In other words, slightly more than half of the 6,407 eligible precincts in Illinois had at least one Republican candidate for this important office on the March 20, 2012 Primary Election ballot. Since Precinct Committeeman is a party office (as opposed to a public office), the Primary is the election. The Democrats elect their own Precinct Committeemen in March.


The bad news is that 3,142 precincts in Illinois had no Republican candidate for Precinct Committeeman on the ballot last time. Needless to say this is a major lost opportunity.


It’s also an enormous failure by the GOP in Illinois. Precinct Committeemen are one of the few counters the GOP has to the army of state workers, teachers, and other union members fielded by the Democrats every election.


But State Chair Jack Dorgan doesn’t have a peep about running for Precinct Committeeman on the Illinois Republican Party’s website. His recent predecessors Pat Brady, Andy McKenna, and Judy Baar Topinka also never did. Few if any County GOP organizations have any information publicly posted either.


The problem is we’ve got too many old bosses who desperately want the Governor’s Mansion back – but not always for the right reasons. Some just want the state jobs and contracts for themselves (and/or their friends) that are currently held by Pat Quinn’s friends. But at the same time they fret about the spoils being diluted if “too many” Republicans are on the field if and when the Illinois GOP does manage to stumble into statewide victory again in our lifetime.


This selfish, self-destructive attitude has been costing Republicans elections for years in Illinois, and it’s shaping up that way again for 2014.


One hears the term “establishment” at lot. I really don’t like that word. It’s an inappropriate reference typically used by reporters who really don’t understand politics in this state – or at least the GOP side. I also hear it from some conservatives and tea partiers as an excuse to play the victim. And some people just use the term because they hear others using it so much.


There is no GOP establishment in Illinois. We’ve simply got some old bosses who have been around a long time and who like to sit on a title, but have no clue how to build a Republican Party. They’re still living in the last century with an outdated patronage model. Their lack of knowledge about true party building is exceeded only by their complete lack of interest in that goal.


We need better quality management and the single best place to start is running for Republican Precinct Committeeman. That’s our party’s farm team. From those ranks come the next candidates for offices at all levels, from school board to congress.


Of the 101 Illinois counties that elect Precinct Committeemen, all but a few still had a significant percentage of vacant precincts after the last election in 2012. As you’ll see, a number of counties actually did worse relative to 2010.


Cook is the only county which doesn’t elect Precinct Committeemen. In all of Cook, only 80 committeemen are elected by each party, and all committeemen serve a 4 year term (as opposed to 2 years for all Precinct Committeemen.) The 30 GOP Township Committeemen in suburban Cook are up for election this time. The 50 GOP Ward Committeemen in Chicago don’t stand for election again until 2016.


You can compare your own county’s performance at the Republican Precinct Project. (Just scroll down for the summary chart.)


If your precinct has been unrepresented, or if the incumbent has been missing-in-action, then consider running yourself – or at a minimum help recruit.


December 2 is the last day to collect petition signatures and it’s also the last day to file those petitions with your County Clerk. A few hours of work is all that’s required to get on the March 18 ballot.


For more information on how to run for Republican Precinct Committeeman, including the petition form, go here.


The Illinois GOP isn’t going to fix itself. If you’re serious about rolling back one-party rule of this state, you can’t rely on the State GOP Chair or anyone else. It’s up to you.


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


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