CHICAGO – Last week’s election of Illinois Republican Party State Central Committee members drew national attention when the Washington Post reported the outcome as an indication that Republicans outside of Washington are dropping their opposition to gay marriage.
The claim is based around a 2013 letter, signed by seven members of the State Central Committee (SCC), calling for the removal of Pat Brady as Chairman of the Illinois Republican Party (ILGOP). The action was taken following a series of brush-ups between Brady and the SCC, which culminated when Brady unilaterally lobbied GOP members of the Illinois House to vote for gay marriage without informing the SCC first.
Following last week's elections, six of those seven SCC members are no longer on the Illinois GOP's State Central Committee.
Citing Pat Brady and AP's Kerry Lester, the WaPo and other legacy media, concluded that the six members were "ousted" because of their opposition to gay marriage.
But the facts don't line up with the conjecture.
Only two signatories of the letter - Angel Garcia and Jerry Clarke - were not re-elected last week. Two others - Mark Shaw and Bob Winchester - remain on the committee. And signers Bobbie Peterson, Gene Dawson and Jim Oberweis (who is running for U.S. Senate) did not pursue re-election.
And in at least one case an incumbent SCC member may have lost re-election because of her support of Pat Brady's actions with regards to gay marriage.
12th District SCC member Deb Detmers, who heads Congressman John Shimkus’ district staff, was replaced on the committee by Williamson County precinct committeeman Michael Neubert. Neubert, a Presbyterian USA pastor in Herrin, actively opposed Brady’s actions.
“As a precinct committeeman, I sponsored a resolution in Williamson County to oust Brady,” Neubert told Illinois Review. “I strongly believe that if a candidate or a party official runs as a Republican, he or she should adhere to the party’s platform. That platform can change, but the platform is the party’s base.”
There was an overall mood to make dramatic changes in the committee’s makeup, Neubert said, “It says something when 16 of the 18 committee spots were contested.”
Pat Brady agrees there is a mood for change. He argues the Illinois Republican Party and its leadership must become more "socially moderate." Following the SCC elections, he told the media: “There were some [SCC] people that have moved on that were great, and then there were others that were absolutely destructive and were not good for the party and they’re gone. All in all, it was a good night, (bringing in) a lot of new blood.”
But the "new blood" Brady talks about may not be so "moderate."
“The new SCC is not only more conservative, but I believe they have the backbone to take action immediately when faced with challenges that warrant decisive action,” Jim Edwards, executive director of Illinois Leadership Project, told Illinois Review.
“One of the major reasons for the statewide interest in getting new blood on the SCC is the disgust among conservatives that it took so long for the prior SCC to make a move on Pat Brady,” Edwards said.
“When the leader they chose went public against the platform they put in place - without conferring with them - the SCC should have made a move immediately. They made the ILGOP weaker than it already was and embarrassed themselves for not vetting Brady on the platform initially. It is no coincidence that the ILGOP is in the super minority in the house and senate,” argues Edwards.
Other than Winchester and Shaw, only Judy Diekelman, Jack Dorgan, Carol Smith Donovan, Roger Claar, and Mike Bigger were re-elected to the 18-member committee.
The facts simply don't back up the spin.