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Leadership shakeup for county GOP?

Published: Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014 11:48 p.m. CDT

WOODSTOCK – An energized and highly-motivated faction of the McHenry County Republican Party has its eyes on more than Nov. 6 midterm election victories.

It wants to start at home by replacing the four officers of the party’s Central Committee with younger blood with new ideas.

More than 130 people, including gubernatorial candidates Kirk Dillard and Bruce Rauner and others, attended a Thursday evening get-together at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5040 to introduce the slate – two County Board members and two County Board hopefuls – and ask for support at the voting meeting that will follow the March 18 primary.

Tapped to run for chairman was outgoing County Board member Sandra Fay Salgado, of McHenry, with County Board candidate Andrew Gasser, of Fox River Grove, running as vice chairman. County Board member Diane Evertsen, of Harvard, is running as secretary, and candidate Charles Wheeler, of McHenry, as treasurer.

While the event for the most part was a platform for local and state Republican candidates to make their cases to the party faithful, the undercurrent was strong that the current Central Committee leadership – Chairman Mike Tryon, Vice Chairman Mark Daniel, Secretary Glenda Miller and Treasurer Fred Wickham, as well as Executive Director Geri Davis – has to be replaced.

People before the meeting cited grievances from failing to fill vacant precinct committeeman seats with qualified individuals, and not doing more to unseat longtime local Democratic Rep. Jack Franks of Marengo.

“I think we have from time to time made our grievances known, and nothing has been rectified,” Evertsen said before the event. “At this point, personally, I don’t feel I have any other option.”

The slate’s makeup is intended to bring together the GOP’s various factions and promote a new, younger and more diverse party, members said. Salgado is a political moderate, Gasser and Evertsen represent the tea party, and Wheeler is African-American.

“This is going to be a good mix. We’re not representing just one faction of the party,” Salgado said.

“This is the new Republican Party that’s reaching out to the entire McHenry County community,” Wheeler said.

Both Salgado and Gasser said the group is putting aside social issues for this election cycle and focusing on fiscal responsibility in government.

“We’ve all put some of our social issues aside to build a better, more vibrant Republican Party based on fiscal issues,” Gasser said.

Tryon is doing some of the group’s work for it – he said Friday that he does not intend to seek another two-year term as party chairman. He said he made the decision months ago, citing his increasing responsibilities as state representative for the 33rd House District. He is running unopposed for another two-year term.

He criticized the gathering in a Feb. 5 letter sent to all precinct committeemen, who vote for the party leadership positions after every March primary. He alleged that such actions have caused Republican parties in neighboring counties to “splinter and divide” which “opens the door for the democrat [sic] party to slip into elected positions.” But Tryon softened up a bit Friday afternoon.

“My job isn’t to beat up on Republicans. My job is to beat up on Democrats. There’s a lot of energy by people who are really active in the party – not just in McHenry County, but many places,” Tryon said. “I think every election cycle has spirited energy and people can put together a slate of candidates, and they can run for any office they want. That’s not unwelcome energy.”

Miller, who is running for treasurer, said she is not sure whether she will run for another term as secretary. She said Friday afternoon that any labels calling her part of a “good ol’ boy” network are inaccurate.

“I’m an individual, and I’m proud of what I’ve done,” Miller said.

Gasser said he believes the slate has the votes to win. The county Republican Party elects its leaders on a weighted vote – each precinct committeeman’s vote is equal to the number of GOP ballots cast in the primary. There are 212 voting precincts in McHenry County.

The vote will take place April 17, under the party’s bylaws.

“I am cautiously optimistic that we will have a new, vibrant McHenry County Republican Party,” Gasser said.

Other candidates in attendance Thursday were sheriff’s candidate Bill Prim, county clerk candidate Nick Provenzano, treasurer candidate Jeff Thorsen, 63rd House District candidate Steve Reick, state attorney general candidate Paul Schimpf and state treasurer candidate Bob Grogan, as well as a number of County Board candidates.

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