GOP Bosses still small and petty about Erika Harold’s run for Congress

By DOUG IBENDAHL • February 16, 2014


There they go again. The usual suspects continue to display their small mindedness in an apparent effort to see how much they can shrink the GOP in Illinois. Ironically, while these usual suspects are getting up there in years, their political tantrums are what one would expect from a small child.


Bernie Schoenburg of The State Journal-Register reports that at last week’s Sangamon County GOP Lincoln Day Dinner, Erika Harold was not only prevented from speaking, she wasn’t even introduced from the podium at the event.


Meanwhile, incumbent Rodney Davis – who didn’t even attend the event – was allowed to deliver a video welcome from Washington, D.C.


Erika Harold spoke to a national audience as a primetime speaker at the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York. But she can’t speak to a Lincoln Day audience in her own district in Springfield, Illinois? It’s ridiculous. And even if she wasn’t running for Congress, any intelligent host anywhere would be thrilled to recognize a former Miss America in attendance. Our GOP here is an embarrassing outlier.


Harold and Davis are squaring off in the March 18 GOP Primary for the U.S. Congressional seat for Illinois’ 13th District. A third Republican, Michael Firsching, is also in the race.


Sangamon County GOP Chair Rosemarie Long is an open supporter of Rodney Davis. That’s fine. But it’s quite shameful how she’s misusing her official party position to try and keep the Republican voters she supposedly represents from having the opportunity to vet all of the GOP candidates.


Ms. Long doesn’t seem to understand that here in America we have elections, not coronations.


Ms. Long isn’t just giving the cold shoulder, in the past she’s also directed some hostile comments towards Erika Harold. Granted, her hostile comments haven’t approached the level of hostility a former GOP County Chairman displayed against Harold back in June of last year.


Davis is a first term incumbent, but this is his first Primary where he’ll actually stand before Republican voters. Davis was put on the November 2012 ballot in a closed-door meeting by 14 GOP County Chairmen in May of 2012 after long-time Congressman Tim Johnson announced his retirement post-Primary.


Some people might have walked away from politics after that slating process which had some fishy elements. Davis was put over the top thanks to significant pressure from the old bosses. Davis was a former staffer for Congressman John Shimkus and he had been the Executive Director for the Illinois Republican Party under disgraced former Chair Pat Brady. Still, Harold came close. Davis only got over the majority hurdle when one County Chairman, a retired state worker, switched his vote from a third candidate to Davis.


But Harold displayed no bitterness. In fact in the spirit of unity she contributed $500 to Davis for the 2012 General Election.


Some Davis supporters unfortunately don’t have Erika Harold’s grown-up attitude.


Last week’s Lincoln Day slight was only the latest. We already told you about how she wasn’t allowed to speak at Republican Day at the State Fair back in August.


And the new State GOP Chair Jack Dorgan still refuses to give her access to the GOP Data Center. In fact the State Central Committee voted unanimously in October to specifically block her campaign from using the party resource. The RNC was asked to stand-up against this unprecedented action, but the national bosses proved equally feckless.


Bernie Schoenburg has also recently reported on allegations that the Davis camp is pressuring contributors to withhold donations to Harold’s campaign. I absolutely believe those allegations. The reports are exactly consistent with the old retaliatory culture which Davis and his people have long been a part.


The old bosses say Harold should have run for an office currently held by a Democrat. What they really mean of course is that Harold should be a nice little black woman and run in a race that no Republican is going to win, and that none of their cronies decided to waste their time on. Clearly what has some peeved is the fact that Harold is too intelligent to be played for a chump.


Erika Harold is trying to help the GOP. She’s the best hope we have for keeping that seat Republican. The Democrats will be nominating a very formidable opponent this time – and not the three-time loser Davis beat by only 1,002 votes in 2012.


Davis expects to coast to the nomination just on the basis of his short term incumbency. He knows he looks like an empty suit standing beside the Harvard educated Harold and her accomplishments. That’s why Davis is hiding from debates and rejected Harold’s invitation to debate in each of the 13th District’s 14 counties. So far Davis has agreed to only one debate on March 10 – and it’s at 7:00 in the morning and only on local radio.


The petty slights and disrespect detailed above obviously aren’t going to decide the nomination on March 18. But they do illustrate a disturbing organizational culture that’s shrinking our Republican Party in Illinois by the day. Few are better positioned to grow the GOP than Erika Harold – so of course some screwballs decide to erect roadblocks in her way.


It’s already clear to me that in November the Illinois GOP will lose multiple big races that it should have won. It’s happened every two years in this century thus far.


And yet when it happens once again the screwballs will still wonder why.


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


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