Illinois Republican committeemen pulled the plug on a special meeting to oust party chairman Pat Brady over statements supporting gay marriage less than 13 hours before it was set to start.
The decision was so last minute that some party officials not on the late night conference call Friday about the meeting -- including national committeewoman Demetra Demonte of downstate Pekin -- made the drive to the Tinley Park Convention center Saturday, only to find it had been canceled.
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While organizers say they wanted to give Brady -- who is out of town -- an opportunity to defend himself, efforts from top ranking Republican officials eroded the votes needed for Brady's removal.
U.S. Senator Mark Kirk -- the Highland Park Republican who two months ago returned to Congress after suffering a stroke -- personally placed calls to committeemen Friday, urging them to change their minds. House Republican Leader Tom Cross, of Oswego, did the same.
"There's some people on the committee that don't like him, but Pat Brady has a lot of friends from Springfield to Washington, D.C.," said State Rep. Jim Durkin, of Western Springs, who was planning to represent Brady at the meeting. "We will defend him as the day is long."
According to party bylaws, a three-fifths weighted vote by committeemen is needed for a chairman's ouster. Committeemen's votes are weighted by the votes cast in their district in the previous primary, giving the most politically active districts the most power.
Brady in January began making public statements in support of gay marriage, which runs contrary to the party's platform, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman.
Committeemen in favor of his removal note that he not only violated the platform, but made statements without notifying them first. Brady, in turn, said last month that the party was on the "wrong side of history."
On Feb. 22, seven committeemen formally moved to call a special meeting to discuss Brady's ouster.
Fifth District committeeman Chris Kachiroubas, of Elmhurst, said Saturday that officials "waited until the last hour" to see if Brady could attend.
But an email from Brady to committeemen Feb. 24 notes that he would be out of town for that meeting, and Durkin said he had planned to represent him for nearly two weeks.
Brady declined to comment Saturday, but in a conversation earlier this week with the Daily Herald, noted that in his experience as a federal prosecutor, he'd found "you cannot represent yourself."
The increasingly public battle within the Illinois GOP has served as a microcosm of a national issue faced by the party, which performed poorly across the country at the polls in November.
While some leaders say the party needs to be a "big tent" organization that can better attract independent voting women, gay and minority voters unhappy with current Democratic leadership, they find themselves at odd with the more conservative factions of the party, which often dominate primaries.
It is unclear whether another special meeting may be called to remove Brady or if the issue will even be addressed at the party's next regularly scheduled meeting in April.
"All of this depends on everyone on the central committee being in concert," said 8th District committeeman Gene Dawson, of Barrington. "I think the future is pretty much unknown as it stands relative to the discussion that's been taking place."
Lance Trover, spokesman for the socially moderate Kirk, who is the party's highest ranking elected official, said the senator was pleased the state central committee made the right decision to forgo the meeting.
The senator "believes it's time to move on and focus on getting Republicans elected in 2014," Trover said,