By Mark Weyermuller -
It's been a crazy week of politics since the primary a week ago Tuesday. That following Wednesday, the Illinois State Republican Party hosted a "unity lunch" at the Union League in Chicago. It was hosted by chairman Jack Dorgan who replaced Pat Brady as chairman this past year.
The lunch was attended by about 250 people and a huge media contingent. While the rest of us were dining on chicken and vegetables, multiple elected officials and nominees took to the podium. They included in this order Jack Dorgan, Jim Durkin, Christine Radogno, Tom Cross, Judy Barr Topinka, Mike Webster, and Paul Schimpf.
This was followed with a fireside type chat between Senator Mark Kirk and Jack Dorgan. It was a similar format to a "chat" the senator had with Chris Robling at the New Trier Republican corned beef & Cabbage dinner a week earlier.
Dorgan and Kirk touched on a variety of topics including foreign policy and the situation in Ukraine. One awkward moment was Senator Kirk saying that Rauner was good for being "pro choice" at which point complete silence set in the room. You could have heard a pin drop. I thought he meant to say Rauner was a "good choice" but I'm told he knew exactly what he was saying.
Then Lt. Governor nominee Evelyn Sanguinitti introduced the man of the hour and possible the new "leader" of the Illinois Republican Party, Bruce Rauner. Rauner spoke briefly while thanking Bill Brady and Dan Rutherford who sat near the stage. Both received standing ovations as did Mark Kirk earlier.
Jim Durkin did a press conference afterwards concerning his anger over some losses and campaign finance. Some felt this was inappropriate at a "unity lunch." Read about that in this Illinois Review story: http://illinoisreview.typepad.com/illinoisreview/2014/03/durkin.html
Noticeably absent were Kirk Dillard and Jim Oberweis who both said they had urgent business in Springfield . Both found time to do radio interviews on talk radio earlier that morning. I was disappointed they were not there.
Also spotted, not attending, another leader of the Republican Party former Governor Jim Edgar. He was seen about 30 minutes before the lunch rushing off an elevator to a waiting car. He appeared to have stayed overnight at the union league but skipped the unity lunch. As many know, he supported Dilllard. Former Governor Jim Thompson was no where to be seen.
Other leaders of the Republican Party chose not to attend including Dan Proft, Joe Walsh, Jack Roeser, Adam Andrzekewski, and Pat Hughes. I only spotted a couple of tea party people and very few leaders from Illinois Pro life movement. Two top younger leaders Tom Morrison and Jeanie Ives also chose not to attend but may have had business in Springfield. I will cut these all these folks some slack as Republicans and conservatives tend to work and have obligations unlike other political party members. As you may have guessed, it can be a big story of who was not there, you decide.
Some of the other big winners attended including Larry Kaifesh, Char Foss Eggerman ,Darlene Senger, Mel Thrillins, Bob Dold, along with a host of donors, state central committee people, and local committeemen. My north suburban committeemen Blair Garber and Bill Cadigan both attended.
I saw Doug Truax who was well received by all. Social media is alive today with a Facebook page urging him to run against Mark Kirk in 2016. Kirk raised another flak this week by not endorsing Oberweis and praising Durbin. This has not sat well with many loyal republicans.
Aaron Del Mar and Chris Cleveland both were there and are said to be battling for the head the Cook County Republicans. My committeeman from my old downtown home Eloise Gerson was there. Top vote getter in the last cook county election, Diane Shapiro was at the lunch. My friend Sandee Gerenger, vp of the Chicago Republican's Women's Network was at the next table, hard at work promoting their next event.
Chicago Tribune reporter John Kass was in the house. I got a chance to chat with him about his recent stories of the Jim Oberweis Florida trip. I told him that Jim was in Florida talking to former Illinois residents who left due to bad policies, trying to get them to return.
Much was made of this trip yet very little has been said about President Obama being there (in Florida probably playing golf) the same week along with an analysis of the Dick Durbin travel schedule. Kass kinda rolled his eyes at me, after all who the heck am I. I don't know what Jim was doing in Florida, nor do I care, but I do know he would be a better senator than Dick Durbin in my opinion.
The Republican establishment needs to get on the same page especially in the platform debate. What do we believe in? Pro life, pro family, pro 2nd amendment, pro business, pro property rights, pro tax payer, pro education, pro school choice, and pro jobs are a good start. I hope it is lowering the size, scope, and cost of government. This would include less taxes, less regulation, less spending, less borrowing and more freedom. We need to support moving all pensions on new employees to IRAs or 401ks to start a phase out of the current pension debacle. I feel all these actions would create more jobs and a better quality of life for all residents in Illinois.
There seems to be 100% agreement of those attending and not attending, that Governor Pat Quinn needs to go. Maybe I'm naive as a political outsider, but I feel Illinois Republicans will be unified. I'm optimistic the Illinois Republican party will come together for a sweep of the elections in November with Bruce Rauner as governor. Don't forget to vote Tuesday, November 4, 2014.