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Article updated: 10/17/2013 8:46 AM

Same-sex marriage at root of Republican primary push

By Mike Riopell

A new conservative group will meet Saturday in Lake County to talk to potential primary challengers to Republican state Rep. Ed Sullivan of Mundelein, one of three Illinois Republicans who have pledged to vote for same-sex marriage.

The meeting is being arranged by Illinois Families First, a Chicago-based political action committee led by conservative Paul Caprio, who on Wednesday called Sullivan a "Cadillac representative of everything that is wrong with this state."

Caprio said the group will be prepared to spend a lot of money to defeat Sullivan in a Republican primary but won't coordinate with the potential candidate, possibly setting up a high-profile battle over same-sex marriage in the suburbs.

Sullivan hasn't shied away from the challenge, saying that any primary candidate will be met with a vigorous campaign, and he's engaged his critics in posts on social media in recent days. Last month, Sullivan was one beneficiary of a political fundraiser held by leading gay-rights group Equality Illinois.

"I'm willing to lose my job over this issue," Sullivan said Wednesday. "But it won't be without a fight."

The meeting will be run in part by Jon Zahm, a Republican from downstate Osco who helped in Illinois with the 2012 primary campaign of presidential candidate Rick Santorum.

Zahm said the meeting at the Libertyville Holiday Inn Express will be a series of appointments with possible candidates and supporters, and people interested in an appointment should contact him in advance.

"We will come out of this process with the best candidate who holds true conservative Republican platform values and refuses to simultaneously serve in two full-time taxpayer funded jobs as Sullivan does," Zahm said.

Sullivan is also the Fremont Township assessor.

Sullivan's experience shows how controversial it can be for a Republican to support same-sex marriage. He announced he'd vote for the legislation in April, but Democratic leaders haven't found enough support in the Illinois House yet to call a vote.

Sullivan has said he came to the decision with the help of his family, including his gay mother-in-law.

"How can we deny these basic rights to our friends and colleagues?" he said.

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