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GOP fund-raiser: Right’s ‘stupid’ internal feud is ‘destroying’ party’s chances in 2014 elections

Possible candidates for Illinois GOP chairman job: Top row: Joe Walsh Lori YokoyamRSandack. Middle row: DTracy Tim Schneider Mark Shaw.

Possible candidates for the Illinois GOP chairman job: Top row: Joe Walsh, Lori Yokoyama, Ron Sandack. Middle row: Don Tracy, Tim Schneider, Mark Shaw. Bottom Row: Angel Garcia, Jim Nalepa, Jack Dorgan.

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Updated: June 11, 2013 6:42AM

A schism within the Illinois Republican party came to a head on Thursday with key donor Ron Gidwitz telling the Chicago Sun-Times the conservative faction of the GOP was “destroying” the party’s chances in next year’s statewide elections by bungling an internal feud over a social issue.

“The state central committee — a faction of the state central committee — is destroying any chance that the Republican Party has in 2014,” an angered Gidwitz told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Gidwitz made the comments after the Sun-Times contacted him about a working list of possible replacements to outgoing Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady. Brady was forced out by conservatives after he announced he would back gay marriage.

“I mean, how stupid is this!” Gidwitz said, raising his voice. “The lack of thoughtful, leadership . . . The state central committee is responsible for the leadership of our party. To push out the party chairman with no plan for a replacement — it is absurd. And with no thought to the consequences of their behavior. They all know how I feel because I told them.”

Gidwitz a onetime gubernatorial candidate and moderate, is typically one of the leading Republican cheerleaders in the state. He is a major player in national and statewide politics, hosting a variety of fund-raisers, including for presidential nominees.

He said he will not stop his fund-raising efforts in Illinois, despite his anger at the party’s conservative wing.

“They’re making the central committee irrelevant. The uncalled for attacks on Pat Brady and the lack of preparation once they started attacking Pat Brady, with no expectation, no strategy to replace him with a capable, respected individual,” Gidwitz said. “They are fundamentally creating an irrelevancy for the state party.”

The working list of potential successors included Tea Party ex-Congressman Joe Walsh, a lightning rod even within his own party. It also included Illinois state Rep. Ron Sandack —- a suburban Republican who supports gay marriage — the issue that the conservative bloc of the party used as a way to oust Brady in the first place.

Others in the running are:

◆ Jack Dorgan, a Rosemont Republican and onetime staffer to both former governors Jim Thompson and Jim Edgar

◆ Angel Garcia from Cook County — president of Chicago Young Republicans

◆ Jim Nalepa of Hinsdale, who ran for Congress in the 1990s

◆ Cook County Commissioner Tim Schneider of Streamwood.

◆ Mark Shaw, a Lake County lawyer active in politics.

◆ Don Tracy, brother-in-law to Jil Tracy, a state rep from Quincy.

◆ Lori Yokoyama — failed Cook County State’s Attorney candidate.

Brady had called for female leadership to revive embattled Illinois Republicans, but so far just one woman made the cut of contenders lining up to take the helm. The party chair is not only the face of Republicans, helping to relay messages and raise money, but also could be critical to influencing whether the party moves further to the right or whether it maintains a moderate position, which once helped the party maintain an uninterrupted 26-year hold on the state’s governorship. That ended in 2003.

The Republican State Central Committee held an hour-long conference call Wednesday night and came back with nine finalists. The list could grow before Friday’s deadline. In all, 30 people were nominated and the nominations included other women — but numerous nominees said they were not interested.

The architect behind Brady’s ousting, state Sen. Jim Oberweis (R-Sugar Grove) also a member of the central committee, told the Sun-Times that Gidwitz was mistaken; there was a plan, and it’s underway.

“First of all, I think Ron is a very competent individual. He was one of the people I talked to to suggest being a party chairman. To say that there’s not a plan, if he said that, he’s just not aware of what’s going on. There’s a plan in place, and it’s being executed as we speak,” Oberweis told the Sun-Times Thursday. “Let me say for the record, I think it would be wrong, if by a plan you mean we should go out and decide on a replacement before the current chairman, before he steps down, I believe that would be wrong.”

Oberweis said a more democratic process is underway “rather than three people” deciding in a room.

“I believe that a very sound process is underway,” Oberweis said. And, looking forward: “We want to find a candidate who does appeal to both the conservatives and the liberals within the party and who will be a uniter who will bring those people together rather than a divider who would cause conflict.”

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