CHICAGO - Thursday Illinois Review reported that the Chicago GOP held a straw poll among the group's committeemen, and Republican challenger Jeanne Ives won over incumbent Governor Bruce Rauner with a 17 to 3 vote.
That news prompted an agitated response from Cook County GOP chairman Sean Morrison posted on the Cook County GOP website. In that announcement, Morrison condemned Chicago Republican Party chairman Chris Cleveland as holding the straw poll with the expressed intent to "usurp the statutory authority" of the Cook County Republican Party and Morrison himself by "illegitimately claiming the authority to appoint individuals to the position of Ward Committeeman."
That's not the whole story, Cleveland told Illinois Review via email after reading Morrison's post.
"...[T]he committee passed a resolution allowing me to appoint 'acting' committeemen, because we have 18 vacancies -- 18 wards without a Republican committeeman," Cleveland said. "Sean Morrison refuses to appoint anyone in these wards. It's been a year and a half. We can't recruit and place election judges in these wards. It leaves the Democrats with zero opposition in some of the worst precincts in the city."
Cleveland said the Chicago GOP has repeatedly sent Morrison lists of good people, but he ignores them. Finally, the committee got so upset that they asked Cleveland to appoint someone, anyone, in these wards to get things going.
"So I did," Cleveland said. "If he had done his job, it wouldn't have been necessary. And we wrote the bylaws so that he can override my choice of an 'acting' committeeman at any time simply by appointing a full committeeman."
Morrison said the Chicago Republican Party was a private club that holds no statutory authority within the Cook County GOP. "Thus, Mr. Cleveland has no authority to make any appointments to the position of Ward Committeeman and to indicate otherwise is pure deception," Morrison said.
Cleveland responded, declaring the Chicago Republican Party is not club, despite Morrison and his deputy chairman Aaron Del Mar's insistence otherwise.
"It's a municipal Republican Party with the same legal status as the county party," Cleveland said. "It would benefit them both to read Illinois election code, 10 ILCS 5/7-8 (h) Municipal Central Committee.
Morrison pointed directly at the dispute as a battle between challenger Jeanne Ives and incumbent Governor Bruce Rauner campaigns. Cleveland is Ives' campaign chairman and Morrison accepted a $25,000 donation through the IL GOP that ties directly to Rauner's $4.5 million donation to the party over the past couple of months.
“I recognize that Mr. Cleveland plays a very prominent role as Campaign Chair for the Jeanne Ives campaign for governor and he has a right to support the candidate of his choice. But, that does not mean that he can manipulate the use and influence of his role as Chairman of the Chicago Republican Club to mislead individuals into the belief that he can appoint them to the position of Ward Committeeman. His sole intent was to manufacture some sort of perceived endorsement for his candidate Jeanne Ives,” said Chairman Morrison.
Then the rhetoric notched up.
"Mr. Cleveland’s actions are nothing more than a blatant exploitation of his club and its By-Laws and are eerily reminiscent of the actions taken by former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz when she helped rig the DNC support and primary election in favor of Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders," Morrison went on to say. "Mr. Cleveland’s unilateral actions are an attempt to de-legitimize the vote and influence of every single Republican Committeeman in Cook County."
That's simply not the case, Cleveland said.
"The vote happened to be the same meeting as our straw poll, but none of the votes of the acting committeemen were tallied in the result we reported," Cleveland said. "The vote was 17 to 3, with 2 abstentions. 22 committeemen, all of who were either elected or appointed by Sean Morrison himself."
And why did committeeman of only 20 of Chicago's 50 Wards participate in the straw poll?
"Because we're down 18 wards, leaving 32 committeemen, and 10 of them were either out of town or otherwise unavailable. It's pathetic that Morrison has left us this understrength," Cleveland said.
"Sean Morrison is either a nitwit or a Democratic plant who needs to resign for the good of the party. Get out of the way so someone else can do the job," he said.