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Lyons: State GOP needs new chair and living room set

Published: Thursday, May 9, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

(Continued from Page 1)

If members of the Illinois Republican Party didn’t know they were standing at a crossroads, the departure of Chairman Pat Brady is the signpost they were looking for.

As a statewide organization, Republicans have only scant relevance and the immediate future is questionable, which should be maddening given the budgetary nightmare that shrouds Illinois under complete dominance by Democrats from the governor’s mansion to supermajorities in both state houses.

I’d argue that you should care about the future of the GOP even if you’re a diehard Democrat, but that argument would go nowhere. Arguing with hyperpartisans is as pleasant as picnicking with wolverines. I have more influence shouting at my television during Blackhawks games.

Regardless of one’s political leanings, we’re all taxpayers and citizens of a state that benefits when public policy matters are robustly debated. How robustly can anything be debated when House Speaker Michael Madigan has a stranglehold on Springfield?

I don’t know Pat Brady, but I’ll take him at his word that he is leaving the position to spend more time with his family, including his wife who is battling ovarian cancer. But Brady was under fire from within the party for several months after publicly stating that he personally supported gay marriage.

That was enough for Republicans like state Sen. Jim Oberweis, who dramatically lowered his own political aspirations and was elected in his district in 2012. Oberweis should be an expert at Illinois politics since he has been losing elections for governor, U.S. Senate and Congress for a decade.

What people like Oberweis can tolerate the least is tolerance, which is also exactly why Republicans have so much difficulty on a statewide level.

I wish the best for Pat Brady and his wife, Julie. I can only imagine that dealing with what the family has been going through puts things in perspective. Personal tribulations help people value what’s important and what’s not.

Perhaps it helped Brady realize that fighting the right of consenting adults from entering into state-sanctioned marriage is not important. It took guts to state his personal beliefs, and he paid for it with attacks to force his ouster.

There should be a place in the GOP for social conservatives and moderates. When social moderates are shouted down in primaries by fringe elements who are never going to vote for a Democrat anyway, Illinois voters are often left with GOP candidates who can’t win statewide contests.

Notice that the only statewide officeholders in Illinois are U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka and Treasurer Dan Rutherford – all social moderates who supported Brady’s comments and fought against his removal.

This isn’t quantum physics. It’s politics. There’s a big world outside our Twitterverse, AM radio dials and blogospheres. The rest of the world is unimpressed by mere volume and typing in CAPITAL LETTERS.

What’s really disappointing is that Republicans have some good ideas when it comes to fiscal matters that are crushing this state. Are we going into $200 billion in debt because the pension system is broken or because two guys are listed together on the wedding registry at Target?

Illinois voters need to wake up and pay far more attention to primaries, and if the GOP puts in a new chairman who’s more like Oberweis than Brady, they’d better ignore him.

• Kevin Lyons is news editor of the Northwest Herald. Reach him at 815-526-4505 or email him at kelyons@shawmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinLyonsNWH. 

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