SPRINGFIELD – After months of public infighting, Illinois Republicans selected a new leader Saturday who they hope is the best option to bring factions of the party together after its poor showing in last November’s elections.
The party’s central committee chose committeeman and lobbyist Jack Dorgan of Rosemont as the party’s chair for the next year. He replaces Pat Brady, who resigned last month after conservatives complained about his public support for gay marriage and other leadership issues.
Over the last few weeks, Dorgan emerged as a consensus choice with the potential to bridge gaps between the party’s conservative and moderate wings. Party leaders are seeking ways to appeal more to youths, women and minorities after a drubbing in state elections that allowed Democrats to nearly sweep contested congressional seats and achieve supermajorities in both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly.
Dorgan had the backing of U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, state Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka and members of the Illinois congressional delegation.
Among other candidates were former Congressman Joe Walsh, former lieutenant governor candidate Don Tracy and businessman Jim Nalepa. State Sen. Matt Murphy of Palatine removed his name from consideration late last month.
Brady resigned from his post May 8, citing his wife’s battle with cancer and his desire to focus on family after six years in Republican politics.
He came under fire from conservatives earlier this year after calling the party “on the wrong side of history” for opposing gay marriage. Critics said they had several issues with Brady’s leadership.
He faced several ouster attempts by state central committeemen led by state Sen. Jim Oberweis of Sugar Grove and Jerry Clarke, former chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren.