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Illinois Republican Party chairman Pat Brady survives latest ouster attempt after gay-marriage flap

State Republican Chairman PBrady 2009 news conference Chicago.  |  Nam Y. Huh~AP

State Republican Chairman Pat Brady at a 2009 news conference in Chicago. | Nam Y. Huh~AP

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Updated: April 14, 2013 11:08AM

Illinois’ Republican Party chairman escaped another ouster attempt Saturday and said his party must be more welcoming of diversity and inclusive of people who disagree if it’s going to grow and win future elections.

Conservative members of the state Republican Party have been trying for months to dump Pat Brady as party chairman, largely because he took a position in favor of gay marriage when a bill to legalize it was before the Illinois Legislature earlier this year.

About 50 Republican Party members attended Saturday’s meeting in Tinley Park of the party’s State Central Committee to ask that Brady step down or that the committee fire him.

After a tense, hourslong session, Brady remained as the party’s chairman. He said the committee did not take a vote on whether to fire him during a closed-door meeting Saturday.

“I think there are people in the party who don’t necessarily agree with me, but the point is .... we’re a party that welcomes all ideas,” Brady said. “You don’t have to be exactly a platform Republican to be welcome in the party, and that’s the direction we’re taking the party.”

Besides Brady’s stance on gay marriage, his detractors also point to Republican losses at the polls in November. Illinois Democrats won veto-proof majorities in both chambers of the Legislature and picked up seats in Congress.

“We need a leader people can rally around,” said Mark Stern, a Republican township committeeman from DuPage County. “Pat Brady chose to focus on things that that are divisive, rather than the 80 percent of things we all agree on. That’s not leadership.”

Tensions grew when the committee went into the closed-door session without first taking public comment, then remained behind closed doors for several hours. At one point, people gathered in a hallway outside the meeting began yelling and chanting, “Throw him out.”

Brady said after the meeting that he does not plan to seek another term after his expires next year and that the committee agreed Saturday to begin working on a succession plan. He said that plan was something the party needed to do and was not a compromise to appease committee members who wanted him gone.

Brady also survived an attempt last month by some committeemen to vote him out. That effort failed amid concerns that getting rid of Brady would reflect poorly on a party that’s trying to appeal more to young voters and minorities by being more inclusive.

Brady has the support of the state’s ranking Republican, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, who said earlier this month he also supports same-sex marriage. Both men have said they don’t believe government has a place in deciding who should marry.

Saturday’s conflict erupted during a meeting to discuss a preliminary analysis of what went wrong in the 2012 election and what it will take to do better at the polls in the future. The report is expected to mirror one released by the Republican National Committee last month, which concluded that the party must be more open-minded and do more outreach to Hispanics, African-Americans, women and young voters if they are to be successful in future elections.

Brady and State Central Committeeman Mike Bigger, who’s leading the Illinois analysis, also said the state party needs to upgrade its database of voter information and improve communication and mentoring opportunities within the party.

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