9-30-2010 Illinois GOP to hold fundraiser for Speaker Madigan's Opponent. Chairman Pat Brady recites a spoof to a popular Irish Blessing. "I'd Just Like to Meet Him," meaning Patrick John Ryan, supposed oppenent to Speaker, Michael Madigan. Photo by Dom Najolia, Chicago Sun-Times
Updated: February 14, 2013 6:28AM
Jim Oberweis, the suburban dairy magnate and recently elected Illinois state senator, was rushing to an appointment when I called him Friday on his cellphone.
Should Illinois Republican Party chairman Pat Brady, I asked, be fired for publicly announcing his personal support for legalizing gay marriage?
“I think in general Pat has done a good job and is a good man, but I think to take a very, very public position . . . on an issue contrary to the party platform and not notify the state central committee is unacceptable,” said Oberweis hurriedly. “But I’m going into the hospital for a stress test and I’m already a minute late.”
That’s something Republicans know a lot about after the last election.
Nationally and locally, the GOP lost women, blacks, Hispanics, young people, independents and gays.
A majority of those demographic categories support the right of same-sex couples to marry.
As does Pat Brady.
Not in his role as state party chairman, he argues. But as a matter of what he calls “personal, conservative conviction.”
On the one hand, he produced a firestorm among some in the state GOP, including Oberweis, who find such deviation from the Republican Party platform abhorrent.
On the other hand, Brady’s statement has provided cover for other Republicans who believe the party is close to going the way of the dinosaur unless it takes a long hard look in the mirror. And asks itself just how representative it thinks it is anymore of the electorate or this country.
“It is the right thing,” Brady told me a week ago, “and the politically smart thing. We can read an election. Voters saw Republicans as mean-spirited, anti-gay, anti-Hispanic, anti-woman. This is about equality. But the perception is not that of the party.”
On Thursday, Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, came to Chicago on a listening tour, meeting with party leaders, elected officials and donors at the downtown law firm of Mayer Brown, hosted by the firm’s chairman, Tyrone Fahner. It was a discussion about what went wrong for them in the last election.
It was reportedly a “lively” discussion.
As it should be, argues former GOP National Chairman Ken Mehlman. Now retired from politics, Mehlman, who is openly gay, invoked the “Reagan Principle” when I talked to him by phone from Washington, D.C.
“If we as a party agree 80 percent with someone (like Pat Brady), he is an 80 percent friend, not a 20 percent enemy,” he told me.
Sen. Mark Kirk, according to spokesman Lance Trover, has offered his own support for Brady keeping his post.
Is his chairmanship still at risk? Maybe. He is currently reaching out to the 18 members of the Illinois Republican State Central Committee. I imagine he’s getting quite an earful from some of them.
But whatever happens with regard to Pat Brady’s chairmanship, he’s given the Illinois GOP a shot at something it’s at great risk of losing.