Soon after the state Republican Party's poor showing in the November 2012 election, we urged GOP leaders to regroup and refocus. At that time, we quoted state GOP Chair Pat Brady as saying: "It's clear to me that if we're going to win, and not be in the minority, we need to be more inclusive, more diverse and more open."
Brady, of St. Charles, started the new year doing just that when he urged party support in Springfield for legalizing same-sex marriage in Illinois. Brady has it right on both counts and we are happy to see a state GOP leader doing what is needed to make the party viable again and bring a strong two-party system to the forefront in 2014.
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Not everyone agrees though. That's why it's important for Brady to stick to his guns and for other party leaders to support him in his efforts.
The calls from the Republican far right for Brady to resign have been loud the last two weeks but hopefully the more moderate voices will hold those calls at bay.
"I was shocked," said state Sen. Jim Oberweis, as quoted by WBEZ Chicago, reacting to Brady's same-sex marriage support. He is urging for Brady to resign. "Did not expect that and did not know why he would have done that."
To Brady and to us, it's clear why.
"If people want to throw me out because I took a stand on an issue of discrimination (as) the chairman of the Republican Party, the party founded by Abraham Lincoln, then that's -- that's up to them and they're free to do it. But I'm not backing down," Brady said on WBEZ.
Good for him. By moving to the middle on social issues, the Republican Party sets itself in position to actually compete for the governor's race in 2014 with incumbent Democrat Pat Quinn seen as vulnerable by many observers.
"Republicans have a real shot at winning the governorship," David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University, told the Daily Herald in November. "The danger for Republicans in this state will be that in order to win nominations, Republicans will run so far to the right on social issues and immigration that they'll turn off voters in the general election."
Brady's work on behalf of same-sex marriage shows the Illinois Republican Party leadership is ready to move in a new direction -- one that may actually lead to victory. Sen. Mark Kirk, a Republican moderate, has reiterated his support for Brady. And corporate bigwigs and other interests warm to the GOP are also showing they're prepared for change. On the heels of warnings by Exelon Corp. CEO John Rowe about the political fallout of opposing gay marriage, the heads of Navistar International, Johnson Publishing, Morningstar Inc. and other major corporations published an open letter calling for marriage equality in Illinois.
"To be competitive, a state must create an equitable, fair and respectful environment for all of its citizens," the letter said, calling it "vitally important that Illinois lawmakers enact marriage equality soon."
The tide is turning in Illinois for same-sex marriage. Potentially, with a more open social mindset, it also could be turning for the Republican Party as well.