Illinois Republican Party bosses could give their chairman the boot on Saturday because of his outspoken support for gay marriage.
Chairman Pat Brady came under fire from state party leaders in January after he declared his “full support” for a same-sex marriage bill pending before the state legislature, directly at odds with the national GOP platform. Brady personally lobbied Republican lawmakers to get on board, but once the bill passed the state Senate with just one GOP vote, Brady declared the party was “on the wrong side of history” on the issue.
Then, last month, seven state central committee members signed a letter requesting a special meeting in Springfield on March 9 to discuss, among other things, “the leadership, image and appeal” of the Illinois GOP.
“This all sparked and the demand for Brady’s resignation came right after his public statements that the Illinois Republicans should support the gay marriage bill,” state Rep. Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs), a supporter and personal friend of Brady, told TheBlaze.
One of the main Republicans pushing for Brady’s ouster is Illinois state Sen. Jim Oberweis. Oberweis did not return a request for comment from TheBlaze, but told WBEZ it’s not just about gay marriage.
“You cannot have the chair of an organization publicly going out and lobbying in opposition to the organization’s stated goals. Doesn’t matter what the goal is. It would have been exactly the same result if he had lobbied in favor of Obamacare,” Oberweis said.
Durkin said it’s ridiculous to single Brady out when plenty of other elected officials in Springfield and Washington haven’t stuck to every position of the national Republican Party.
“It’s not as if the elected officials, particularly Republicans, in this country are purist with respect to the GOP platform,” Durkin said. “Pat Brady’s comments are not consistent with the GOP platform, I get it, I understand, but I think we need to put this in proper context. We’ve had Republican governors — Jim Edgar was one of the most beloved governors in the state of Illinois for two terms, he was pro-choice.”
Edgar actually weighed in this week to say it would be a “mistake” to use same-sex marriage as a reason to remove Brady. Jim Thompson, another former Republican governor, said doing so would “further submerge the Republican Party in Illinois.”
Tom Cross, the Illinois House Republican leader, has also thrown his support behind Brady. He told TheBlaze there are “other issues out there,” including some personality clashes, but that it’s gay marriage that’s been the driving force — and that it sends the wrong message.
“We are a party that says you value different opinions and you can be for this bill, you can be opposed to this bill, and we need to acknowledge that we’re a party with a lot of diversity on a lot of issues,” Cross said. “We have to just understand not everybody is going to agree with us, especially as we’re a party that’s struggling to grow, at least in Illinois.”
Brady’s supporters point to his strong record as state GOP chairman, saying he has raised more than $9 million since starting in 2009 and credit him in large part with Republican Mark Kirk getting elected to Barack Obama’s old U.S. Senate seat.
“[Brady] has been a tireless critic of the highest-ranking Democrats in the state of Illinois, which no other chairman has had the guts to do in my lifetime as a Republican,” Durkin said. “He’s not afraid to call them out, which he has done. His job is to raise money and try to win races — he’s traveled the state, spoken all over, he has not shirked his responsibilities.”
It’s unclear at this point whether Brady’s opponents will have the votes to throw him out. Doing so would require three-fifths of the state committee’s weighted votes, which is based on voter turnout in the state’s March 2012 primary.
“It is at this point I’m told very close,” Cross told TheBlaze. “I don’t think we really are going to know until Saturday…I honestly don’t know as we speak here what’s going to happen.”
Brady, who did not return requests for comment from TheBlaze, will be traveling Saturday and not attend the meeting in Springfield. Durkin said he will be there to represent him and speak on his behalf.
Meanwhile, Durkin said he’s heard from two major donors this week who are concerned about the internal struggle.
“The conversations I’ve had with these gentlemen, who are longtime donors who know how to raise money, is they are going to give second thoughts in the future about raising money for the party if they remove Pat,” Durkin said. “There is a consequence to this. In their words they say, ‘I thought this was a party, a big tent party, but we’re just shrinking it by doing this.’”