SPRINGFIELD -- Rosemont village trustee and statehouse lobbyist Jack Dorgan was named the Illinois Republican Party's new chairman Saturday, replacing Pat Brady of St. Charles, who resigned after months of pressure for his removal because of his stance on same-sex marriage.
Dorgan said he's already lined up staff and a plan to move forward on the immense task of returning the party to relevance in 2014 after a painful 2010 governor's race loss and the bleeding of seats in Congress and Springfield in 2012.
Candidates have to start passing petitions for the 2014 election in about three months, so Dorgan said the party has "an incredibly short time period" to get ready.
"We've got a lot of good people who want to run for a number of offices, and we're excited about getting them out in the public and getting them all focused and getting them on message," Dorgan said.
The chairman job doesn't pay, requires good fundraising skills and is a tough challenge in a state that is controlled by Democrats.
Dorgan won on the first ballot taken by the Republican State Central Committee, but party leaders didn't say if it was a unanimous vote.
Brady, who had narrowly survived several ouster attempts, resigned from his post May 8, citing his wife's battle with cancer and his desire to focus on family. State Sen. Jim Oberweis, a Sugar Grove Republican, was among those who called for Brady to step down because of his same-sex marriage stance, saying the party's leader shouldn't lobby against its national platform.
Over the last few weeks, Dorgan emerged as a consensus choice with the potential to bridge gaps between the party's conservative and moderate wings. Dorgan had the backing of U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, state Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka and members of the Illinois congressional delegation.
"We spent a lot of time talking about the platform," Dorgan said Saturday. "We're big tent Republicans, and we're about winning."
As a lobbyist, Dorgan's firm represents a handful of clients with heavyweight influence in Springfield, including AT&T, downstate utility Ameren and the Illinois Hospital Association, according to state records.
Dorgan's firm also represents the Illinois Asphalt Pavement Association, a group that was once led by Bill Cellini, a former Republican insider who was convicted in 2011 of corruption charges stemming from the federal investigation of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Dorgan was one of seven finalists for the job who gave their final pitches to the central committeemen Saturday morning via speeches in a hotel conference room blocks from the Illinois Capitol. He addressed his lobbyist job in his comments.
"Government is the largest employer in the country," Dorgan said. "I'm proud of what I do."
But his occupation was criticized by former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh of McHenry, who also was also up for the job. He told reporters that if the party picked Dorgan to lead them, conservative voters would be driven away. "He's a political insider," Walsh said. "He's a lobbyist."
In his speech before the committee, Walsh chastised its members for having "no clue" that the party is "beyond broken."
Other candidates included Mark Shaw, a Lake Forest attorney; Angel Garcia, a Chicago attorney; Jim Nalepa, a Hinsdale businessman; Don Tracy, a former candidate for lieutenant governor; and Lori S. Yokoyama, a former candidate for Cook County state's attorney.
Ÿ Associated Press contributed to this report.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.