In curtain call, Cook GOP chief fires 13 committeemen

  • Aaron Del Mar

    Aaron Del Mar

  • Sean Morrison of Palos Park is the new leader of the Cook County GOP.

      Sean Morrison of Palos Park is the new leader of the Cook County GOP. Kerry Lester | Staff Photographer

  • Kerry Lester/klester@dailyherald.comNew Cook County GOP leader Sean Morrison accepts a gavel, signifying the transfer of power, from Aaron Del Mar on Wednesday.

    Kerry Lester/klester@dailyherald.comNew Cook County GOP leader Sean Morrison accepts a gavel, signifying the transfer of power, from Aaron Del Mar on Wednesday.

 
 
Updated 4/13/2016 9:27 PM

As his final move as Cook County GOP chairman, Aaron Del Mar of Palatine fired more than a dozen committeemen who have voted in a Democratic primary during the previous eight years.

Del Mar, who did not seek re-election at Wednesday's county party convention in Chicago, told the Daily Herald he considered a number of the party's 80 committeemen -- 50 from the city of Chicago and 30 from the suburbs -- to be Democratic "plants" after examining their voting records and lack of attendance at party meetings and events.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

There was a touch of irony in the move, as Del Mar himself pulled a Democratic ballot to vote for Hillary Clinton in 2008. Still, he described that move as "pulling a ballot for a specific reason" noting he'd proven his Republican credentials over and over in the years that followed, less than he could say about those that he moved to oust.

"No one's even heard of them. No one's even seen them," Del Mar said of the 13 committeemen, all from Chicago. He says the move was an attempt to combat issues the party has had in past years with election judges, where Democrats have filled Republican judges spots in heavily Democratic wards.

Del Mar was able to execute this maneuver through amendments to the party bylaws adopted earlier in the year at his request, a move his successor, Sean Morrison of Palos Park, also said he supported. Some committeemen, however, questioned the legality of the decision.

Off duty police officers ultimately removed some committeemen who protested the move, as well as some of their supporters, before the county meeting began.

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The county party's plan is to replace those committeemen with Republican candidates for state representative and state Senate by the end of May. Committeemen, who aren't paid, have duties including helping out with elections and promoting the party's candidates.

Del Mar, who said he decided not to seek re-election due to the needs of his growing family, was succeeded by Morrison, a businessman in a unanimous vote. Committeeman Marc Levine is also expected to have a more visible leadership role within the party due to close ties to the governor, whose Winnetka home is in New Trier township, which Levine represents.

Morrison stressed Wednesday that he planned to work to "bring the county party a little more in line with the state party."

"For me it's all going to be about raising funds and putting together a professional staff," Morrison said. "The main vision being trying to recruit quality Republicans."

Morrison also cited a need for the party, which has seen regional divides in the past, to "really concentrate on unity."

Should controversial business tycoon Donald Trump be the party's presidential nominee, Morrison, a Kasich supporter, said the party would back Trump.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Whoever the nominee is, we're going to be behind them," he said.

By law, Illinois' Republican delegates are bound to the candidate are bound to the statewide winner -- Trump -- for the first ballot at the Republican National Convention.

Should the convention be brokered or contested, Morrison said it was "too early" to say what delegates from Cook County might be encouraged to do.

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