Lake GOP leader says it’s premature to talk about replacing Schmidt in Senate

That’s GOP leaders’ word on Schmidt

With questions swirling about state Sen. Suzi Schmidt’s political future, Lake County’s Republican Party leader on Friday denied a list of potential successors has been compiled.

“It would not be right to start doing that before Suzi even had a chance to make a decision,” local GOP Chairman Bob Cook said.

But that hasn’t stopped some opportunistic Republicans from approaching Cook and volunteering their services if Schmidt — on the hot seat because of domestic problems and the controversial content of related 911 calls made public this week — resigns.

“There is no shortlist,” an emphatic Cook said. “When she makes her decision, then we will do what we have to do.”

Schmidt, a freshman senator from Lake Villa Township, is under the microscope because problems she’s having with her husband, Robert, have led to police intervention three times since December. The most recent call was Monday.

No charges have been filed against Suzi or Robert Schmidt.

The 911 calls and police reports that prompted the visits by Lake County sheriff’s deputies have been picked over by political observers, reporters and radio talk-show hosts. They have raised questions about whether Schmidt improperly used her political status to influence police responses.

In a 911 recording made Dec. 25, 2010, Schmidt identified herself as the former Lake County Board chairman — a position she held until earlier that month — and urged police to ignore any calls from her husband. In the same recording, she told a police dispatcher her husband is afraid of her “because he knows I have connections.”

And a police report from an incident Monday indicated Schmidt told a sheriff’s deputy she believes her husband is trying to “derail her career” as a senator.

Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady on Friday echoed comments of other GOP leaders.

“The tapes are very troubling,” said Brady, of St. Charles.

In a statement emailed to the media this week, Schmidt said she didn’t intend to use her political titles inappropriately and apologized if the comments seemed inappropriate.

She has not made herself available for interviews.

Schmidt is out of town this weekend on a trip planned before the controversy arose, a political ally said.

“I don’t think the Senate is what she’s thinking about right now,” the ally said on condition of anonymity. “She’s thinking about her life.”

The ally doesn’t think Schmidt should quit now.

“She has no reason to resign. She’s done nothing wrong,” the ally said. “Her question is, is she going to run for re-election or not. And she has until December to make that decision.”

One top Republican said the working plan was for Schmidt to think about her future over the weekend, then decide whether she’ll stick around the Senate and run in 2012, keep her seat and abandon her re-election bid, or give up both.

The source said whether Schmidt makes the announcement next week remains to be seen.

Cook expects Schmidt will announce a decision early next week.

A top GOP official said there is no “line in the sand” compelling Schmidt to make a decision about her future next week. But, the official said, a decision is expected “quickly.”

If Schmidt resigns before her term ends, a committee consisting of three Lake County Republicans will choose a successor, Cook said. Only people from Lake County will participate because the 31st Senate District is entirely in the county.

Cook said he would welcome input from state GOP leaders if the time comes. But any talk of succession is premature, he said.

“Right now, this decision is solely in Suzi’s hands and we will respect that,” Cook said.

Ÿ Daily Herald State Government Writer Mike Riopell contributed to this report.

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