Illinois GOP Chairman Pat Brady resigned Tuesday, citing his wife's battle with cancer and his desire to focus on family after six tough years in Republican politics.
Opponents from within his party have persistently called for Brady to resign from the leading role he has held for nearly four years. But in an interview with The Associated Press, he said he was not bowing to that pressure and that internal rifts worsened by 2012's poor election results had not influenced his decision.
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"I've been going hard for six years. It's time to move on," he said.
Brady said his wife has been battling "very serious" cancer for two years and that he wanted to spend more time with her and their four children.
"It's time to focus on my wife and our kids," he said.
Brady -- whose term expires in 2014 -- came under fire earlier this year because of his statements supporting same-sex marriage. He later survived several ouster attempts by state central committeemen led by state Sen. Jim Oberweis of Sugar Grove and Jerry Clarke, former chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren. Party officials will hold a conference call Wednesday morning about the decision.
Brady's wife, Julie, a former McCain for President co-chairman for Illinois, has been battling ovarian cancer for the past two years.
The couple have four teenage children, with the eldest still in high school. Brady, an attorney and former federal prosecutor, is also in the process of starting a new public affairs firm.
Despite so many conflicting pressures, Brady has quietly fought in recent months to leave the unpaid position on his own terms rather than at the request of committeemen who have objected to his shoot-from-the-hip leadership style.
Brady's exit leaves a void in leadership that has already proven difficult to fill at a precarious time for the party, both locally and nationally.
Late last week, state Sen. Matt Murphy of Palatine withdrew his name from consideration for state party chairman. Murphy, a moderate Republican respected by both the conservative and moderate wings of the party, confirmed that decision Monday but declined to comment further.
Tenth District Committeeman Mark Shaw of Lake Forest, Republican national committeemen Rich Williamson and Demetra Demonte, and Cook County Commissioner Tim Schneider of Bartlett are among others being considered.
The state party's very public battle has served as a microcosm of differences in the national 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 odds with the more conservative factions of the party, which often dominate primary elections.
Brady, in January, began making public statements in support of same-sex marriage, which runs contrary to the party's platform defining marriage as between one man and one woman. In doing so, he has had the backing of major party donors, including former Exelon Corp. Chairman John Rowe.
Committeemen in favor of Brady's removal fault him for not only violating the platform but making the statements without notifying them first. Brady said the party was on the "wrong side of history."
The last of three ouster attempts was a raucous meeting April 13 in Tinley Park. About 75 people attended to call for Brady's removal over his support for same-sex marriage and erupted in anger when they learned Brady would keep his job. Local police had been called to keep the peace and at one point locked people out of the hallway adjacent to the meeting room, where they'd begun yelling and chanting, "Throw him out."
Despite Illinois' dire financial climate, Republicans have had a tough time uniting behind leadership in recent years. Former Illinois GOP Chairman Andy McKenna -- whom Brady replaced in 2009 -- was often criticized for steering the party in the wrong direction.
The already drawn-out process to replace Brady is reminiscent of the party's lengthy, often-frustrating search for a U.S. Senate candidate in 2004. The nomination was eventually offered to former presidential candidate Alan Keyes, who did not even live in Illinois -- a move that left a bitter taste in the mouths of a number of Illinois Republicans. President Barack Obama defeated Keyes in that Senate race.