CHICAGO - Republicans in Cook County need not be upset about having no GOP options to choose next November on the countywide ballot. Indeed, it's a part of the complicated plan to get Bruce Rauner elected as governor, so a prominent GOP committeeman claims.
With polls showing that Cook County will be the key battleground for the governorship, remarks GOP Precinct Committeeman Jim Parrilli made to the Sun-Times this week are raising eyebrows. Parrilli said the blank GOP county ballot will keep Cook Democrats home in November.
“If you’re practical about it, you look to four years ago when Roger Keats was running against [current county board President] Toni Preckwinkle,” said Jim Parrilli, a Republican precinct committeeman and candidate for Metropolitan Water Reclamation District commissioner. “She went out and got every union guy out there and they ended up increasing the vote total in Cook County and that ended up helping [Democratic Gov.] Pat Quinn.”
The sleeping dog political theory
Parrilli's theory says if there is no contested countywide races in the state's most populated district next November, Democrats will stay home and Republican candidate Bruce Rauner will win. It's called the "let sleeping dogs lie" political strategy.
And believe it or not, sometimes the strategy works, experts say.
But Parrilli's version of the story is not what happened at all, Palos Township GOP Committeeman Sean Morrison told Illinois Review Thursday. Morrison said there was a genuine effort to get candidates on the Cook County ballot for clerk, treasurer and assessor.
"Actually the Cook County Republican Committee, the 'CCRC,' did in fact call for a special slating meeting to take place as soon as possible immediately following the primary, through Cook County GOP Chairman Aaron Delmar’s call for a special session," Morrison said in an email.
"The CCRC had been working for quite some time to recruit candidates for every open countywide ballot position. Many candidates were vetted, several candidates that passed the vetting were presented to those Cook County Republican Committee members present at the slating meeting," Morrison said. "In the end, three were slated for the countywide offices indicated. They did, however, fail to establish enough petition signatures as required by law."
Cook County GOP Chairman Aaron DelMar, Palos Township GOP Committeeman Sean Morrison
Morrison said the failure to have GOP candidates on Cook County's office ballot was a combination of candidates failing to do what they said they'd do and a organizational consensus to just leave the slate blank.
"During the open questioning portion of the slating meeting, several members of the CCRC directly asked all of the candidates if they had the ability to get the amounts of signatures required to be placed on the ballot. Each and every candidate passionately indicated that they could in fact deliver the signatures needed to get themselves on the ballot," Morrison said.
One of the slated candidates told Illinois Review last week that she gathered 1000 signatures - nearly half of the required minimum.
Morrison says that during the slating meeting, there was open discussion among committeemen regarding whether it was fair and open enough to slate candidates. At the end of the "spirited debate," a vote was taken and the CCRC voted to slate, allowing them to all three run on the same petition.
But the GOP candidates and the party faithful fell short of the required 2710 petition signatures, leaving no Republican countywide office contenders for the Cook County General Election.
So, Morrison contends, Parrilli's comment that Cook County GOP is planning a "let sleeping dogs lie" strategy is just not what the Cook County GOP intended.
Cook County will be November's crucial battleground
The polling company We Ask America's CEO Gregg Durham says Cook County vote is crucial for a Rauner win.
“Rauner’s lead in the collar counties and downstate is strong and may hold, but Cook County is the real battle ground,” he told Reboot Illinois.
To win in a battle, there needs to be two opposing sides in the battle zone. So why would Parrilli give the Sun-Times the spin he picked?
Parrilli, who is a GOP precinct committeeman has a solid record of pulling Republican ballots for voting. However, a brief review of his political donation history shows he donates more to area Democrats and Democratic organizations than Republicans.
Parrilli and his wife Mary, who sells insurance to municipal carriers, have donated to mayors, state representatives and Democrat organizations over the years.
Parrilli has given Democrat state lawmakers such as former State Rep. Kevin Joyce, State Rep. Karen Yarbrough and State Rep. Chris Welch campaign donations, along with four donation equalling $600 to former GOP State Rep. Skip Saviano.
He's written checks to the Democrat-leaning mayors of Lyons, Maywood, Riverdale and Berwyn, along with Chicago city Aldermen Jason Erwin and the Democrat Party of Berwyn Township. He also helped a Cook County judicial candidate that ran as a Republican in 2010 and as a Democrat in 2014.
While writing a check to Cook County GOP Chairman Aaron DelMar's personal campaign account, Parrilli has not written a check to the Cook County GOP or any other GOP ward or township committee:
However, it's well known that Parrilli is in a tough spot being a Republican in the city of Chicago. You never know whether someone in your own household is working for the Democrats, like Megan Parrilli, who lives at James Parrilii's address.
Parrilli's assertion that no Republicans on the Cook County ballot is an intentional part of a winning strategy is being criticized, as is Morrison's contention that the GOP candidates were asked if they could get the needed signatures.
"According to my recollection, the candidates weren't asked any such thing," Chicago GOP vice chairman Chris Cleveland told Illinois Review.
"I repeat," Cleveland said, "Any Republican who says we shouldn't run candidates is either working for the Democrats or doesn't understand electoral politics."