2016 Illinois State Convention platform committee meets | McHenry Co Blog photo
CHICAGO - Illinois Republican voters were split 51 to 49 percent between a liberal Republican incumbent governor and a conservative state representative in the March 20th primary. The results revealed a dramatic contrast between the party leaders and the GOP base.
In the wake of a party-dividing primary that is still a sore spot among those voters committed to the conservative party platform, another test of the party's future will be April 18th. That's when county precinct committeemen gather to pick who will represent them on the State Central Committee. Party activists are expressing concern.
Illinois' Republican National Committeewoman and co-chair of the Trump Illinois campaign, told Illinois Review Saturday that the vote will be very important. She did not personally endorse in the 2018 IL GOP gubernatorial primary.
"These last few months have been a time of bitter primary battles. The primary is over and we have selected our candidates. This should be a time for reconciliation - bringing together all sides so we can be victorious in November," Demonte said.
"Sadly, it is my understanding there is an effort to thwart conservatives who are running for re-election on the State Central Committee. This effort is counterproductive and will most assuredly backfire in November. If we are to be victorious in November we will need our army of conservative activists...and most of all our conservative voters. How else can we defeat the juggernaut of the Democrat machine?"
But the wounds are deep - and for many, irreparable. Governor Rauner won by running ad after ad focused on what amounted to lies about his challenger, Jeanne Ives. Rauner misled uninformed voters to believe Ives was a Madigan co-hort, when Ives has been one of the House's most vocal opponents to the Speaker. That type of win should never be rewarded, Republicans are saying. Many are discouraged, insulted and wounded. They're planning to stay at home in November - something that could be devastating for down-ticket Republicans.
Illinois Tea Party leader Denise Cattoni told Illinois Review that she's concerned about the state and its future if conservatives disengage from voting in the fall. But, as a vocal supporter of Jeanne Ives in the gubernatorial primary, she understands the discouragement many conservatives are expressing.
She publicly shared her concerns on her Facebook page Friday in a post addressing precinct committeemen.
"The ILGOP is trying to purge all conservatives from the State Central Committee. When you attend the April 18th meeting, all of the conservative SCC Chairmen will have a RHINO opponent (after the primary). Stand for your principles! Stand for the ILGOP Platform, Cattoni wrote. "Gov. Rauner has now made it perfectly clear that Conservatives are NOT invited into the IL Republican party, guaranteeing that he will lose to Pritzker."
Cattoni said that of the 90 Tea Party groups around the state going back to 2008, over half of the leadership has moved out of state, having read the political handwriting on the wall. As a movement leader focused on fiscal issues, she supported Bruce Rauner in his 2014 bid.
Since then, she's gotten more involved in Republican Party circles, which has led her to be especially concerned about the two congressional districts where conservative state central committeemen are currently serving, but who backed Jeanne Ives in this year's gubernatorial primary.
State Central Committeeman John McGlasson in the 16th CD and Bob Winchester in the 15th CD are both being challenged by elected state lawmakers - likely put up by Rauner's people, she says.
Illinois Review asked McGlasson his thoughts about the challenge he's facing. He not only backed Jeanne Ives in the gubernatorial primary, he backed challenger James Marter over incumbent Congressman Adam Kinzinger in the 16th CD.
The Rauner camp is reaching out to precinct committeemen, urging them to support State Rep. Tom Demmer over McGlasson. State Representative David Weller is circulating a letter among other members, opposing McGlasson. Four that McGlasson knows of did not sign Welter's letter.
McGlasson says he's committed to the Illinois Republican Party platform as his principle base. He recalls vividly the battle waged at the 2016 IL GOP State Convention over the platform changes Rauner people - including former Party Chairman Pat Brady and SCC member Ryan Higgins - tried to make on family issues.
"I worked very hard, along with many others, to bring the platform to the floor at the last convention," McGlasson told Illinois Review. "And I will continue to fight for conservative values in future platforms. One of the most important duties of state central committee members is the appointment of committee members for the convention. I am very proud of those I appointed last time and the battles they waged."
Stan Bond, SCC member from the 14th CD, although conservative as well, is running unopposed in the SCC race.
"You may recall I was one of the committed group who worked through the night to ensure the party platform wasn’t revised per Pat Brady and the chosen platform committee," Bond told IR. "It was an historic effort that dramatized for all the importance our base places on family values.
"I would like to strengthen and clarify our platform on some issues but remain proud of it as written. I strongly believe party support should be focused on candidates who support the platform. That’s why we have a platform," he said.
The platform is key to the conservative majority in the Illinois Republican Party. The vote at that convention on maintaining traditional family values in the party platform was supported in a standing seven-to-one vote - a fact Rauner and his staff either purposely overlook or can't believe is that important to Republican voters.
Demonte, who represents the state to the RNC, stands with the party's conservatives. While the nation pulls to the right with President Donald Trump at the helm, the Illinois Republican Party is being dragged to the left at the insistence of Governor Rauner and his well-paid campaign staff.
"As your Illinois' Republican National Committeewoman, and as a loyal Republican, I plan to vote for our entire Republican slate in November," Demonte said.
"But I want to assure the party faithful that I remain committed to the conservative principles lined out in the Illinois Republican Party platform, as well as continue to actively engage and push policy at the national level on the Republican National Committee that represents the values of our grassroots."