Activists challenging GOP status quo in Illinois

By John Seiler | For Illinois Statehouse News

CHICAGO  — Illinois Republican activists are pushing party faithful to challenge the Democratic Party’s stranglehold on Cook County, and its largest city, Chicago.

That will affect not only local political offices, but also the legislators that Chicagoland sends to the state Capitol in Springfield.

Unless at least some Republican lawmakers are elected from the area, the state Legislature in the Land of Lincoln is unlikely to be majority Republican any time soon. Democrats hold a 35 to 24 majority in the Illinois Senate. The Illinois House also has a majority of Democrats, with 64 Democrats and 54 Republicans.

The March 20 primary election will nominate GOP challengers to the dominant Democrats in the General Assembly.

A new Republican activist, Deb Gordils, who is of Puerto Rican and Mexican ancestry, has been working on a year-long campaign to advance Republican candidates and to attract more Latinos to the conservative party.

“The Latino population in Chicago is still struggling,” she said. “When you talk to Latinos, they’re conservative. I say to them, ‘If you vote your values, you vote Republican.’ They understand that.”

Gordils is starting at the local level to bust the stranglehold that Democrats have on the county.

Cook County has a unique system in Illinois in which each party’s ward committeemen choose the candidates for the Legislature. All 50 ward committeemen are up for election March 20.

“The position is similar to that of a Precinct Committeeman in counties outside Cook County. The only substantive difference is that many more voters are represented in a ward, which includes multiple precincts,” RepublicanNewsWatch.com reported. “Running for Ward Committeeman in Chicago is relatively easy. In over half the wards, candidates for Republican Ward Committeeman need the valid signatures of fewer than 30 registered voters in the ward to get on the ballot.”

Gordils is challenging committed Republicans to run for ward committee positions — posts she said are held by Democrats posing as Republicans. It’s a discovery she made after just five of the 50 GOP ward committee members returned her calls for help organizing Latino voters for the party.

She said she wondered why Democrats would want the nonpaying jobs of the GOP committee members. But the answer is simple. It gives committeemen the power to ensure that Democratic candidates for the Legislature have weak Republican opponents, or no opponent at all.

The ward committeemen also are responsible for the Republican half of the election judges. So if half the election judges are Democrats, and of the other half many are Democrats posing as Republicans, then the Democrats control the election.

“The whole thing is a farce,” Gordils said. “What you have (are) imposters posing as Republicans. But if we don’t succeed in building a two-party system in Chicago, you cannot win in the state of Illinois.”

In some wards, she said, fewer than 50 people elect a local ward committeeman. So it’s easy for Democratic operatives to find enough Democratic voters, and “tell them to vote for the GOP candidate — who’s really a Democrat,” she said.

“It’s a convenient way to manipulate the vote  — with no evidence. This is nothing but a hostile takeover by the Democratic Party in Cook County,” Gordils said.

She said that when she started talking about Democrats posing as Republicans, “about 11 of the 50 ward committeemen resigned.”

And at least one third of them didn’t file papers for re-election. They didn’t want the mud to hit them,” Gordils said.

“There are certainly a handful of ward committeemen who are flying a false flag,” he said. “But the bigger problem is that they’re completely ineffectual. We have only a handful, perhaps a dozen that have organizations and work on behalf of the party’s candidates.”

He said that, “although there’s always the problem of false flag” ward committeemen, “the problems run deep. That includes state party leaders ignoring the importance of Cook County.”

He pointed out that although Republicans are the minority party in Cook County, there are more untapped GOP votes there than in any other county in Illinois.

“Illinois does not require registered voters to pick a party any more, so this number is hard to ascertain,” ChicagoNow.com reported in a recent post. “We know that in 2010, the year of the (Republican leaning) Tea Party revolt, Chicagoans voted 77 percent to 19 percent for Democrat Alexi Giannoulias over Republican Mark Kirk in the U.S. Senate race and 75 percent to 17 percent for Democrat Pat Quinn over Republican Bill Brady for governor.”

So Chicago is at least three-fourths Democratic, according to those numbers.

By contrast, statewide in that 2010 election, the gubernatorial race was a virtual tie, with 47 percent going to Quinn, the Democratic winner, and 46 percent to the Republican Brady. And the race for the U.S. Senate also was close, with Republican Kirk winning with 48 percent and Democrat Giannoulias garnering 46 percent.
The Republican nominee for president also might have a chance of winning the state for the first time since 1988. That’s unlikely to happen this November no matter what, because President Barack Obama is from Chicago and is a favorite son. But 2016 is only four years away. Republicans once dominated the presidential elections in the Prairie State, winning there five straight elections from 1968 to 1988. But they haven’t won since.
Similar changes in voting patterns also might give the Republicans a stronger presence in the General Assembly. Democrats hold a 35-24 majority in the state Senate and a 64- 54 majority in the state House of Representatives. A shift of five votes in the Senate and six in the House would give the GOP majorities in both houses.
Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady did not return calls seeking comment.
Illinois, of course, also is the state where two recent governors went to prison on corruption charges. Democrat Rod Blagojevich was impeached and removed from office in 2009. In 2011, he was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison on charges including wire fraud and solicitation of bribery. His prison sentence On Wednesday, he began serving his sentence.
His predecessor, Republican George Ryan, has been in prison since 2007 following his conviction on federal corruption charges.

Originally reported by Illinois Statehouse News. Read the original article here.

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