Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka is the third top Illinois Republican official to publicly sound off in support of state GOP Chair Pat Brady, of St. Charles, who could be ousted this week for making statements supporting same-sex marriage.
"He's on the right side of history, for God's sake," Topinka told the Daily Herald Tuesday. "For me, it's being a total conservative that you're really pushing family values. Gay marriage is a very conservative thing. Family is (one of) the building blocks of a community."
Removing Brady as chair, she said, "will send a terrible message to the young people that the party needs."
In early January, Brady voiced his full support for same-sex marriage legislation in a statement and in phone calls to state lawmakers. He said he did so as a private citizen, and not in his capacity as party chairman.
However, the Republican Party's platform defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Some party committeemen say Brady's remarks cannot be separated from his role as chairman.
After the state Senate voted 34-21 in favor of same-sex marriage Feb. 14, Brady described his party as being "on the wrong side of history." An Illinois House committee gave preliminary approval last week for legalizing same-sex marriage, allowing it to be brought to the chamber floor in the coming weeks.
"He's trying to grow the party to make it look more tolerant," Topinka said of Brady. "Any move to oust him makes our party look intolerant."
Committeemen appear to be forging ahead with plans to do so.
On Feb. 22, seven committeemen -- State Sen. Jim Oberweis of the 14th Congressional District, Mark Shaw of the 10th District, Chris Kachiroubas of the 6th District, Gene Dawson of the 8th District, Bobbie Peterson of the 11th District, Jerry Clarke of the 15th District and Bob Winchester of the 19th District, signed a letter calling for a special meeting Saturday in Tinley Park at which Brady's removal could be voted on. Influential Republican donor Jack Roeser of Barrington said he recommended Shaw as Brady's interim replacement.
While Oberweis, Shaw and Dawson have been fairly public about their calls for the closed-door meeting in Tinley Park, other committeemen -- including Kachiroubas, Clarke and Winchester, have not returned multiple calls apiece seeking comment.
Topinka is no stranger to weathering controversies. As a socially moderate party chair from 2002-2005, she saw her support erode from more conservative factions of the state party.
Several days ago, Topinka said she "happened to run into" a committeeman calling for Brady's ouster, whom she declined to identify, and "laid into him."
"I asked him, 'When does this stop?'" Topinka said. "There are all sorts of little political games being played here. None of which will work well for the growth and movement forward of the GOP. If you shoot yourself in the foot enough, pretty soon you're not going to have any feet left to stand on."
Topinka follows House leader Tom Cross and U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk in backing Brady.