The move to oust Pat Brady as head of the Illinois Republican Party has been cast as being all about gay marriage, but it isn’t so. Brady’s full-throated endorsement of same-sex marriage was just the tossed glove in a duel for the direction of the GOP in Illinois.
In Illinois the State Central Committee chooses the Chairman, but in practice follows the wishes of the gubernatorial nominee and congressional incumbents. The committee is made up of one member per congressional district, elected by the county chairmen in that district.
Pat Brady was hand-picked by 2010 Illinois GOP gubernatorial nominee Bill Brady (no relation) during that failed campaign. The two were high school friends. Pat Brady retained his chairmanship after the loss.
Chairman Brady claimed credit for the 2010 tea party victories in the statehouse and congressional races, touting the number of telephone calls made in the Victory program. Losing the governorship by less than 1% after polling well ahead going into the final weekend, he privately blamed that loss on the candidate’s pro-life stance.
More precisely, then Executive Director Rodney Davis (now in Congress representing IL-13) told me privately, out of Pat Brady’s hearing but implying the Chairman’s agreement, that it was the Bill Brady campaign’s inability to answer pro-choice GOTV ads in Chicago the weekend of the election that led to the loss — throwing campaign manager Jerry Clarke under the bus.
At the 2012 state party convention, Brady was at the forefront of a move for a closed convention. The rules adopted in committee did not allow floor motions, and all votes were to be voice votes, with the opinion of the chair being final. The quietly stated motivation was to keep Ron Paul supporters from hijacking the convention, while the real intent may have been to stop a movement to restore direct election of Central Committee members. The final effect was to leave state convention delegates with no actual function other than to be stage props for the Central Committee.
The Central Committee is a self-perpetuating club, choosing its own nominees and manipulating county chairmen into approving the committee’s choices for its own membership. The committee is responsive to incumbents in Congress, however, who greatly influence the choice of committee member for their district.
In downstate Illinois, traditional family, abortion, national defense, and the right to keep and bear arms are the only real hot-button issues for Republicans. Politicians are careful to stay aligned with the base in those areas.
The state’s Republican US Senator, Mark Kirk, and State Treasurer, Dan Rutherford (R-Pontiac), are both supporters of gay marriage. Rutherford is running for Governor. If he wins the nomination, Rutherford would have his pick for Party Chairman.
So it was surprising to me that a group of Central Committee members called for the Chairman’s removal after he also came out in favor of gay marriage. I suspected there was more to the story, and that gay marriage was just a proxy issue.
On Saturday, March 16, a spokesman for Illinois State Central Committeeman Bob Winchester said the issues leading to the attempted, but delayed ouster of Brady were:
- Inserting himself in a contested primary
- Failure to raise money
- Inability to manage the money he did raise
- Ignoring the Party’s platform
On the morning of March 9, 11 of the 18 Central Committee members (61.1%) supported the ouster, which would have met the 60% majority needed to remove the Chairman. After intense lobbying from former moderate former Governor Jim Thompson, former Governor Jim Edgar, Rep Aaron Schock, and Senator Kirk, committee member Carol Donovan of the 7th district flipped, according to Winchester spokesman Tom Donnell. The motion was tabled.
It should be pointed out that the primary argument for keeping Brady was that to remove him would provide Democrats with a talking point. It’s better to wait, to make clear that Chairman Brady’s removal is for arrogance and overall poor performance, and not just for being, as much of the Republican Party’s leadership in Illinois is on so many other issues, out of step with the rank and file on this one.
Donnell spoke at the Cumberland County Lincoln Day dinner in place of Winchester, who was gravely ill.
“You may have heard,” said Donnell, “that members of the State Central Committee have tried to remove Pat Brady as Chairman of the Illinois Republican Party due to his support for so-called gay marriage. This is not entirely true. There were many reasons for his removal.
“First, Chairman Brady interfered in contested Republican primaries, primaries between two Republicans. The state Party chief does not do this. Secondly, he cannot raise money. Thirdly, he cannot manage the money he did raise. Fourthly, we have a platform in the Illinois Republican Party, put together by the entire Party. He ignored the platform, one point of it.
“Last Saturday, he was to be relieved of his job. We have 18 State Central Committeemen. Eleven of them banded together to form a search committee to come up with four or five candidates to make a new party chief.
“Then, the lobbying started. Men that I respect, even love, lobbied people, ‘You don’t want to vote to make a change. Make it wait. Make it later.’ Finally one wonderful lady from Chicago, she’s a great lady, told the rest of them, ‘I’ve had too much pressure. I cannot vote for the change.’
“So Pat Brady is still your State Party chief, for a certain period of time, but a change will be made. And it is important that you find out who voted in favor of a change. Bob Winchester voted in favor of a change. He and Jerry Clarke were two of the leaders in favor of a change.”
I spoke to Jerry Clarke, and sent him the foregoing asking for correction or comment. He gave no answer before time of publication.
Update 2103-03-18 15:45:
According to Illinois Review, Central Committee member Deb Detmers (IL-12) said:
1. The bylaws of the the state party allow for meetings of the committee to be called by either the State Party Chairman of a signed letter of 5 members of the committee. The meeting for last weekend was called by 5 members of the committee. As it was a duly scheduled meeting, I did indeed plan to drive to Tinley Park and back on Saturday until I received a call at 10:00 p.m. the night before the meeting was canceled. It is my understanding a group of the State Central Committeemen had a conference call where they decided to cancel the meeting. I was neither invited nor informed on this conference call.
That makes sense, as only the 11 pro-removal committee members would have been on the call.
Follow @lheal on twitter.