State GOP chief sees no conservative split in party here

  • Pat Brady

      Pat Brady Rick West | Staff Photographer

and Projects Editor
Updated 11/4/2009 7:59 PM

Hoping to prevent a divisive primary for governor that might blow the Republicans' chances at retaking power in Illinois, the GOP chairman has declared himself a campaign referee.

Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady said Wednesday he plans to call a sit-down next week with the campaign managers of all seven GOP candidates for governor.


The message: "We will call people out for negative campaign ads that cross the line," the St. Charles resident said.

Brady didn't say what would constitute "crossing the line" in attack ads over the next three months of campaigning before the Feb. 2 primary. The newly elected chairman said he wants to ensure that candidates play fair so the party can stand unified behind the eventual nominee for the general election.

"We will come out strong, and I will do everything I can as party chairman to ensure that happens," he said.

Recent Republican primaries for statewide races have been filled with bombshell throwing and name calling, making it difficult for factions of the party to come together in the general election.

The current field of candidates is packed with captains in the party: former Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan of Elmhurst, state Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale, former party Chairman Andy McKenna of Chicago and state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington. The field also includes newcomers Adam Andrzejewski of Hinsdale and Dan Proft of Chicago.

Yet, Brady is taking a clear risk in his outward attempt to keep the peace.

For starters, attacking one campaign and not another could be construed as playing favorites. Additionally, if Brady calls out a campaign that eventually wins, he may have inadvertently given political ammunition to the Democrats and undermined his own authority.

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Brady's announcement Tuesday came a day before the field of governor candidates is set for the first official debate in Chicago.

It also comes after East Coast elections seem to foretell both fortune and potential danger for Republicans here.

The victories Tuesday of Republican candidates for governor in New Jersey and Virginia - two states that picked Barack Obama for president last year - appear to indicate GOP contenders can win on an economy-focused message.

Polls in those states showed voters who considered themselves 'independent' backed the GOP candidate by a hefty margin, an about-face from last year's election.

"You are going to see a similar pattern in the state of Illinois," Brady declared.

But a closely watched U.S. House race in upstate New York Tuesday may also be considered a warning.


Conservative activists, and some well-known party names like Sarah Palin, rejected a moderate Republican candidate in favor of a third-party contender who they said fell more in line with Republican doctrine. The dejected Republican dropped out over the weekend and backed Democrat Bill Owens, who beat the third-party candidate with about 49 percent of the vote - the first time a Democrat has won that seat in more than 100 years.

Brady insisted Wednesday that kind of internal split will not occur in Illinois, even though similar divisions have hampered the chance of Republican candidates in Illinois general elections for years. Brady said if GOP candidates focus on the economy and ethics, the top issues on voters' minds these days, there will not be enough division to throw the party into chaos.

"If we stay on those issues," Brady said, "There is very little room for disagreement."

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