Fundraiser postponed amid debate over Illinois GOP chairman's future

The beleaguered Illinois GOP chairman is postponing a high-profile fundraiser until a vote concerning his removal for supporting gay marriage is decided.

“As many of you are aware, we had scheduled our major fundraising event for March 19th featuring the RNC Chairman as guest speaker,” party Chairman Pat Brady wrote in a Sunday email to state party officials. “Given the current situation, we have postponed the event until this is resolved.”

The March 19 event, featuring Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus and honoring former Exelon Corp. CEO John Rowe — also a Republican supporter of gay marriage — would have come 10 days after a special state central committee meeting that could result in Brady's ouster.

Brady said the event was expected to raise roughly $250,000 for the state party.

“The timing of this (special) meeting was not well thought out a week before a fundraiser and in a difficult fundraising cycle anyway,” Brady said.

Brady told the Daily Herald Friday that he learned of the closed door March 9 meeting through a phone call from Jerry Clarke, 15th District committeeman and former chief of staff of Congressman Randy Hultgren of Winfield.

According to party rules, five signatures of committeemen are required to call a special meeting.

Seven committeemen — Clarke, Chris Kachiroubas of the 6th District, Gene Dawson of the 8th District, Bobbie Peterson of the 11th District, Jim Oberweis of the 14th District, Bob Winchester of the 19th District and Mark Shaw of the 10th District — signed the letter.

In early January, Brady, of St. Charles, voiced his full support of same-sex marriage legislation in a statement and in phone calls to lawmakers. That support runs contrary to the party's platform, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Brady said he did so as a private citizen, and not in his capacity as party chairman.

After the state Senate voted 34-21 in favor of same-sex marriage Feb. 14, Brady described his party as being “on the wrong side of history.”

Some party committeemen, including Dawson, of Barrington, say Brady's remarks — which he made without informing the state central committee first — cannot be separated from his official role as chairman.

But other top Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk of Highland Park and Illinois House Republican Leader Tom Cross of Oswego, are backing Brady.

In Illinois, a party chair can be ousted with a three-fifths majority weighted vote from state party committeemen. Committeemen's votes are weighted by how many voters in each congressional district turn out in the previous primary, giving the most politically active districts the most power.

Committeemen must be notified of a special meeting five business days before it occurs.

Brady will be out of town for the meeting on a previously scheduled college visit for one of his children.

Oberweis, of Sugar Grove, said Sunday he doesn't regret the timing of the meeting.

“I think it's important that this is dealt with,” he said. Yet, he said, “I don't think it needs to be as public as it has been.”

Dawson, asked if the postponed event was an embarrassment for the party, answered “No.” Instead, he called it “a good move.”

“With this issue being so up in the air, it would be hard to have Pat be the sponsor, if he is promoting this now as chairman and may not be chairman in a few weeks.”

The last time Priebus headlined an Illinois GOP event was in 2011, during a Lincoln Day dinner in Schaumburg.

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