Bitter battle on for Elk Grove GOP committeeman post
One candidate says he has the experience, contacts and institutional knowledge that, if elected Elk Grove Township Republican committeeman, will lead to a stronger organization.
The other candidate says the current leadership of the Elk Grove GOP -- of which his opponent is a part -- hasn't gotten Republicans elected, and the organization needs a new voice to get things done.
A bitter intraparty fight has developed in the race for Elk Grove Township Republican committeeman, pitting the current deputy committeeman, Art Niewiardowski, against Scott Lietzow, a young GOP activist.
Current Committeeman Mike Sweeney isn't running for re-election.
Niewiardowski, 47, a local business owner and the Elk Grove Township highway commissioner, has the backing of Sweeney, who is also township supervisor, and the official endorsement of the Elk Grove GOP's precinct captains and board members.
He says Lietzow has never been involved in the local Republican organization, and the first time he saw him was at last summer's GOP picnic in Busse Woods.
"I don't know where he came from or anything," Niewiardowski said. "He never had anything to do with us. You gotta have some kind of relationships with the community. He was coming in and saying he wanted to be committeeman. People said, 'Who is this guy?'"
Lietzow, 25, is deputy political director for 10th District congressional candidate Bob Dold. He says there are members of the Elk Grove Republican organization who are supporting him -- and that one of them was excluded from the group's committeeman endorsement session.
He said he reached out to Sweeney and party leaders when he moved to the area, but never heard back.
Lietzow said he would build an "open and inclusive organization" if elected.
"Our Republican organization right now ... doesn't do what is necessary to win," he said. "That's why we have Democrats like Tammy Duckworth, Dan Kotowski and Marty Moylan in charge in our township.
"Right now the organization is nothing more than a breakfast club."
Niewiardowski has questioned Lietzow's credibility. He says voting records show Lietzow was living in Elk Grove Township while voting from an address in Wheeling Township.
Niewiardowski, in a campaign news release sent last week, cited Cook County clerk records that show Lietzow cast ballots in Wheeling Township in November 2012 and April 2013, even though he already had moved to his current Arlington Heights residence within Elk Grove Township.
Niewiardowski called it "voter fraud."
Lietzow said questions about his voting record are "a nonissue" and a "distraction" from other issues in the campaign.
He said after returning from duty with the Marines in 2010, he moved to Wheeling Township, and always voted at Arlington Heights village hall. After moving to Elk Grove Township in 2012, he said he continued voting at the same location.
"Quite simply I didn't change my voting registration. It didn't cross my mind," Lietzow said. "I was voting for mayor (of Arlington Heights in April 2013). I did what I had to do as a citizen."
The candidates disagree about the best way to use the "boots on the ground," people who knock on doors to collect signatures.
Lietzow favors a traditional precinct captain approach that he says works successfully in Wheeling Township.
Niewiardowski favors a new voter outreach model in which several members of the GOP organization knock on doors together -- even if it's outside of their own precincts.
Lietzow, the student trustee on the Harper College board of trustees, said he wants to get younger Republicans involved in the organization by helping them start GOP groups at high schools and community colleges. He said he would start a Young Republicans group in Elk Grove Township that sponsors events and fundraises.
He pointed to his success as a student activist at Harper College, where he founded the Young Americans for Liberty organization that won National Chapter of the Year in 2013.
On its website, Young Americans for Liberty bills itself as "the largest and fastest-growing libertarian and conservative youth organization in the country," founded in 2008.
"The end goal is to keep them engaged, whether they are activists or running for office," Lietzow said. "Millennials are going to be the biggest voting block in America. If we don't start working on them now, we're going to be losing elections in the future."
Niewiardowski, meanwhile, said he intends to start a shadowing program for young Republicans that places them in internships on campaigns and in governmental offices.