This afternoon, the state central committee of the Illinois Republican Party selected Jack Dorgan to become the party’s new chairman, succeeding Pat Brady, who resigned several weeks ago. The committee interviewed seven candidates, including myself, as part of the selection process.
My hope had been that the Illinois Republican Party would have heard the voices of grassroots conservatives loud and clear after too many years of establishment insiders running the party. We have needed a reform-minded conservative who can energize the base and rally independents to our cause. Unfortunately, those voices have fallen on deaf ears.
Jack Dorgan is the absolute wrong choice to become chairman of the party. He is the quintessential party insider. His career has consisted of ongoing associations with establishment Republicans like former Gov. Jim Thompson and Gov. Jim Edgar.Dorgan has been described as being a part of the inner circle of Rosemont Mayor Bradley Stephens. His time as trustee for the Village of Rosemont has been marked by conflicts of interest due to Dorgan’s other job — lobbyist.
His partner in that lobbying firm has been James McPike, who was a former majority leader for Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan. The lobbying firm of Dorgan-McPike has donated to both Republicans and Democrats, including former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
Jack Dorgan is a living, breathing manifestation of the Illinois combine, in which Republicans have been marginalized as Democrats have continued to wield power and run the state into the ground.
As I wrote earlier this week, I did not expect the state central committee to select me as the new party chairman. However, I had held out some hope that the party would recognize its ongoing record of failure as a true alternative to the Democrats and would turn the party in a new direction. I was wrong.
It appears now that the selection process was nothing more than theater of the absurd. For weeks now, we’ve been hearing that Jack Dorgan was the presumptive choice. Then today, the state central committee interviewed candidates behind closed doors, with the public only able to hear brief opening statements from each candidate. All we needed was the proverbial smoke to fill the backroom in which this deal was cut. It seems now that Dorgan was the inevitable choice, regardless of what the grassroots of the party wanted.
The next seventeen months will be critical for this state as both our unpopular Democrat Gov. Pat Quinn and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin will face reelection challenges in 2014. Does the Illinois Republican Party stand a chance to recapture either of these seats? After today, I’m not confident.