By IR Reader/Observer -
Whle most outsiders assume that party candidates run for office because they want to accomplish something for their communities or have ideas or principles they want to champion, that is, unfortunately, not always the case.
Sometimes political party candidates are pushed into running as a proxy for a larger battle, a measure used to gain control of a takeover target.
On a macro level, you may have read about Illlinois Republican proxy wars between conservative activist Dan Proft and the GOP Establishment, the unions and those who supported pension reform, or pro-family groups and those who voted for gay marriage.
But there are a number of other intra-GOP organization proxy battles that came to a head Tuesday night, including several highly contentious battles at local levels for County GOP Chairman.
In McHenry County, two political GOP factions have been warring for years. On one side sits former Illinois GOP Chair Al Jourdan, outgoing County Sheriff Keith Nygren, the Local 150 of Operating Engineers, County Board Chair Tina Hill and State Rep. Barb Wheeler. On the other side sits State’s Attorney Lou Bianchi, Bianchi’s right hand man Ron Salgado, conservative activist Brian Kelly, and a number of other local conservative leaders.
Nygren and Local 150 have been warring with Bianchi for years, attempting to take him out both with political race challengers and with lawsuits, but failing on both hands. With Nygren’s retirement as County Sheriff, both sides saw an opportunity to advance their sides. Enter Bill Prim, Bianchi’s pick, and Andy Zinke, Nygren’s pick, into a race that was more about which side will claim dominance than it was about which candidate would best run the Sheriff’s office.
The McHenry sheriff's race also had implications with the McHenry County GOP Chairman’s battle, since current Chairman Mike Tryon announced he would not run again. His choice, Mark Daniel, is supported by the more established GOP faction. Meanwhile, Salgado and his team have run a shadow campaign to elect party committeemen in precincts throughout the county in an attempt to elect a chairman from their own ranks. Rumor is that side's candidate for county chairman is Salgado’s daughter, Sandra.
Moving one county East, there are two such proxy wars in Lake County, and both were initiated by the incumbent County Chairman Bob Cook. When Lake County Treasurer Bob Skidmore announced his retirement, former County Board Chairman David Stolman immediately announced he would run for the seat and gained the support of dozens of Republican elected officials throughout the County. However, because Stolman was allied with individuals against Bob Cook being re-elected as Chairman, Cook and his allies recruited their own candidate, Jeri Atleson, into the race and ran her campaign. What resulted was a bloody, divisive, and expensive Primary battle that was less about the issues (since both candidates agree on nearly every issues) and more about the Lake County GOP chairman’s re-election.
A similar situation arose in the 51st State Representative District. While pro-family activists had been looking for a candidate to challenge Ed Sullivan over his vote for gay marriage, they had difficulties finding a candidate to run. Enter Lake County GOP chairman Bob Cook, who wanted to get back at Ed Sullivan for allegedly being involved in the effort to replace Cook as Chairman. Cook recruited his friend and ally Bob Bednar to run, and assisted his campaign by putting out robocalls against the incumbent Republican Representative and actively worked Precinct Committeeman to support Bednar over Sullivan.
Not to be outdone by McHenry County, anti-Cook forces in Lake County worked to recruit and run committeemen favorable to their cause. This, of course, spurred pro-Cook forces to do the same.
At last but not least, yet another intra-party squabble broke out in Cook County where a number of small proxy wars emerged focused on the upcoming vote for Cook GOP Chairman.
Anti-Aaron Del Mar (current GOP chair) forces in northern Cook County such as Board of Review Commissioner Dan Patlak, Wheeling Township GOP Committeeman Ruth O’Connell, Schaumburg Township GOP Committeeman Ryan Higgins, and 42nd Ward GOP Commmitteeman Eloise Gerson actively attempted to recruit a candidate for Palatine Township GOP Committeeman against Del Mar.
They were unsuccessful, but they were able to recruit candidates in two townships - Maine and Elk Grove - where the incumbent GOP Committeeman was retiring. They also encourgaed Dr. Barbara Bellar to challenge Cook County Commissioner Liz Gorman, but after seeing polling results, they backed away to save face. Both pro- and anti-Del Mar forces were heavily involved in the two contested Committeemen races.
Interestingly, another takeover skirmish between pro- and anti-Del Mar forces emerged in a small race for Cook County Judge in Del Mar’s backyard. Patlak and Higgins backed Gary Seyring, a local attorney, while Del Mar backed his Chicago ally John Curry, who had recently moved to the contested district. Curry won with less than 200 votes.
Since Tuesday' election, candidates for county chairman have emerged and by law will be decided by April 16th. So far, at least one candidate from the anti-Del Mar camp, Chris Cleveland, has announced he will be running for chairman of the Cook County GOP.
Power struggles are a part of political party organizations, and because the Republicans in Illinois have hit a long dry spell statewide, power struggles will be especially crucial over the next month leading up to county chairman elections.