Illinois GOP Chairman Pat Brady resigned today, citing his wife's battle with cancer and his desire to focus on family after six tough years in Republican politics -- four as party chair and two as a national committeeman.
"It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as chairman of the Illinois Republican Party," Brady, of St. Charles, wrote in a letter to committeemen that was posted on the Illinois GOP's website. "Working together, I believe that we have accomplished a great deal."
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Seven District committeeman Carol Smith Donovan of Chicago, the vice chairman, will move up to be interim chairman.
The Daily Herald first broke the story of Brady's expected resignation Monday night.
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 in the process of starting a new public affairs firm.
Brady has 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 and blamed him for losses at the polls in November.
In his letter to committeemen, Brady reiterated successes the party has seen in his tenure -- a successful 2010 election cycle, a newly developed statewide get-out-the-vote program, and fundraising records.
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.
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.
U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, the Illinois GOP's highest ranking elected officer, praised Brady for "selflessly serving his community and party."
"I respect and understand Pat's decision to spend more time with his wife Julie during this difficult time in their lives. Julie is a fighter and I will continue to pray for her, Pat and the kids as they move forward," Kirk said.
State Rep. Greg Harris, a Chicago Democrat who has led the push to legalize same-sex marriage in Illinois, expressed his thanks to Brady "for standing up for fairness for all families."
Brady said he still plans to stay active in state politics, and "in a variety of capacities, including organizations supporting our candidates in the upcoming gubernatorial and congressional races."