Illinois GOP Chair Cancels Fundraiser Amid Same-Sex Marriage Flap
By Alex Keefe
The controversial leader of the Illinois Republican Party has now cancelled a major fundraiser as he waits to find out whether party bosses will fire him following his public support of same-sex marriage.
Illinois GOP Chairman Pat Brady had organized the March 19 event, which was scheduled to feature Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. But Brady pulled the plug on the event over the weekend, after seven party bosses called a March 9 special meeting that could end with his ouster.
Brady said he called off the event to spare the head of the RNC from wading into a nasty internal party fight triggered by Brady’s public support of same-sex marriage, a stance contrary to the party’s platform.
“It hurts party operations,” Brady said, referring to the timing of the special meeting, ten days before the fundraiser. “It hurts our brand. But this is the world that I am dealing with. They can do whatever they wanna do with me. But all this they’re doing right now is doing nothing but…hurting the Republican Party and our chances of winning in 2014.”
Last week seven members of the Republican State Central Committee – a panel of top party leaders – signed a letter calling for a special meeting to discuss party finances and “the leadership, image and appeal” of the state GOP.
A handful of party leaders have been calling for Brady’s resignation since early January, after he released a statement announcing his “full support” for a same-sex marriage bill pending in the Illinois General Assembly. Committeemen bristled not only because Brady bucked the party line, but because he gave party bosses no forewarning.
Since then, two committeemen – State Sen. Jim Oberweis, of Sugar Grove, and Jerry Clarke, of downstate Urbana – have been working behind the scenes to organize a special meeting to vote Brady out.
Oberweis said the meeting isn’t just about the same-sex marriage flap, but about broader concerns over the chairman’s fundraising, his lack of communication with party leadership, and other issues.
“It has nothing to do with gay marriage,” Oberweis said. “It has something to do with a CEO of an organization lobbying on behalf of something the organization opposes.”
Oberweis accused Brady of setting up the March 19 fundraiser only after he learned some party bosses were trying to oust him.
“It’s purely a subterfuge to discourage people from taking him to task,” Oberweis said.
Jerry Clarke has not responded to numerous interview requests.
It’s still unclear whether Brady’s rivals have the votes to get rid of him. State GOP bylaws say removing a party chairman requires three-fifths of the weighted votes on the State Central Committee. Each committeeman’s vote is weighted differently, based on voter turnout in their congressional district in the March 2012 primary.
Some committeemen who called for the special meeting said they want Brady to explain himself on March 9, but haven’t decided whether they’d vote to fire him.
“Let’s just put it this way: The evidence is not balancing in his favor at this point, with the exception [being] that if he were to be able to discuss with us why he did what he did,” said Committeeman Eugene Dawson, of Barrington. “I’m not gonna condemn the man before he has an opportunity to explain himself thoroughly.”
Next months’ fundraiser was projected to bring in $250,000 for the party. In addition to Priebus, the RNC chair, the event was to honor former Excelon CEO John Rowe, a party backer who has publicly supported same-sex marriage.
Rowe said Monday the cancellation may be embarrassing for the state party, but he doesn’t feel snubbed.
“The party needs to work its way through this because it’s pretty clear that you can’t be too conservative on the so-called social issues and win in Illinois,” Rowe said.