By DOUG IBENDAHL • December 13, 2010
Pat Brady, donning ski pants, chaired the quarterly meeting of the Illinois Republican Party on Saturday morning at the mega-fancy Bolingbrook Golf Club a/k/a the “Roj Mahal.” The nickname refers to Roger Claar, the Mayor of Bolingbrook and the driving force behind the club’s construction.
Claar is also one of the 19 members of the State Central Committee that’s supposed to oversee the Illinois Republican Party. That’s the senior board that met on Saturday. That’s also the same board 99.99% of Illinois Republicans get no say in choosing – not until we get SB600 passed.
While these meetings are in theory open to the public, our State Party does little to encourage attendance. There’s very little publicity in advance. Plus there’s typically not a lot that happens at these meetings. In any case, a dozen regular Republicans attending as spectators would be about average.
Some positive news from Saturday is that a group of black Republicans attended and three spoke about the need for the Illinois GOP to do a better job of reaching out to minority communities.
Cedra Crenshaw, who this year challenged the incumbent Democrat in the state senate district that includes most of Bolingbrook, went first and focused much of her remarks on the need to pass SB600. “SB600 is not a panacea, but it will go a long way to healing internal problems which keep the party from recruiting and expanding its base,” said Crenshaw.
Isaac Hayes who challenged Jesse Jackson, Jr. for Congress this year, and Frederick Collins, the Republican candidate for Cook County Sheriff, also addressed the State Central Committee. Both talked about how the Republican Party must do a better job of helping black candidates in predominantly black districts if we want to grow the party. “It is as much good politics as it is continuing in the historical tradition of the Republican Party to reach outside of our base,” said Hayes.
However, if the Illinois GOP is truly serious about minority outreach it’s going to have to do a lot more than provide a few minutes at the podium for three former candidates to speak.
For example, something all the party officials in that room Saturday knew – but no one wanted to acknowledge – was that the host himself, Roger Claar, abandoned minority Republican candidates in his own town this year. And incredibly one of those candidates was Cedra Crenshaw!
Cedra was too classy to call Claar out personally in her remarks on Saturday, but we reported the story of Claar’s betrayal right before the November election (see here).
And speaking of class – it would have been nice if Claar would have shown some by apologizing to Crenshaw for bailing on her this election and protecting the incumbent Democrat instead. Needless to say, there was no apology.
Near the end of the meeting, others had a chance to address the State Central Committee. David Smith who leads the Illinois Family Institute called on the party to do more in defense of pro-family issues – largely the same issues incorporated in the Republican Platform. Smith addressed the recent passage of civil unions and talked about his disappointment in the Republicans who joined Democrats in passing that legislation in Springfield two weeks ago.
While Smith spoke for less than five minutes, many of the party officials there obviously weren’t thrilled with anyone suggesting that the Republican Party in Illinois should maybe try to act Republican. When Smith noticed that Pat Brady, who was seated next to the podium, was peering over to Smith’s notes and trying to see how much more material he had left, Smith said, “Don’t worry, I’m almost finished.” At that point a State Central Committeeman at the table exclaimed, “Thank God!”
As an aside, one of the 19 members of the State Central Committee is Skip Saviano. Skip’s also one of the six “Republican” State Representatives who voted with the Democrats to pass the civil unions bill in the House.
Skip Saviano is also one of the most vicious opponents of SB600. For reasons that aren’t hard to imagine, he’s fine with the current, easily rigged system for choosing the State Central Committee.
Things got worse when three tea party leaders spoke about their concerns. Christine Arndt of the Bureau-LaSalle Tea Party went first and urged passage of SB600. By the time the third tea party leader spoke, the assembled officials were clearly tiring of regular people raining on the parade.
Even though the Illinois GOP did worse this November than any other state in the Midwest (if not the entire country) – by far – the tone of the meeting was all about self-congratulation. If you didn’t know any better, you would never suspect that the GOP here largely blew the most historic opportunity in our lifetime.
The third and final tea party speaker was simply trying to inject some reality, and had only spoken for a few minutes, when one of the State Central Committeemen screamed out: “Shut her down!!” Chairman Brady didn’t go along with that idea, but he didn’t remove the offending bully either.
This is YOUR Illinois Republican Party folks. The members of this State Central Committee are supposed to be representing and working for YOU. Instead we get unprofessionalism and a good-old-boy mentality.
Does anyone still wonder why Illinois remains such a “blue” state?
A State Central Committee that’s arrogant, ineffective, out of touch, and completely disrespectful to even the best Republican volunteers is exactly why we need to pass SB600.
Doug Ibendahl is a Chicago Attorney and a former General Counsel of the Illinois Republican Party.