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Would-be GOP leaders optimistic they have enough votes to shift control in county

Published: Saturday, March 22, 2014 11:16 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, March 24, 2014 9:35 a.m. CDT

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Four Republicans who hope to assume control of the county GOP’s Central Committee believe they have more than enough votes to do so after Tuesday’s primary results.

Voters who went to the polls to choose their candidates for the November election also elected their party’s committeemen for the county’s 212 voting precincts. Those committeemen, Republican and Democratic, will caucus April 16 to elect their respective parties’ executive officers.

The Republican slate won some contested precincts and lost others but has more than enough to take control, said Andrew Gasser, the hopeful for the vice chairman seat. Running for chairwoman is outgoing County Board member Sandra Fay Salgado, while County Board member Diane Evertsen is running for secretary, and County Board candidate Charles Wheeler is running for treasurer.

They hope to reinvigorate a party apparatus they allege has become lax and ineffective and turn it into an aggressive get-out-the-vote operation. The group has sold itself as an umbrella organization encompassing diverse ideas and has expressly stated it will run this election on fiscal issues and put aside social issues, which in recent elections have cost Republicans voters and winnable state and national seats.

“Tuesday’s results were very encouraging. We had a worst-case and a best-case scenario, and we’re right about in the middle,” said Gasser, who on Tuesday won his primary race for County Board. “If we held it today, we’d win. Comfortably.”

On the downside for the new group, it will not learn just how much weight each committeeman’s vote carries until about a week before the caucus when the county clerk certifies the primary results. On the upside, two of the four executive members they seek to replace are stepping down, and a third has yet to commit.

Vice Chairman Mark Daniel, who is chairman of the Nunda Township Republican Central Committee, is running for the chairmanship because State Rep. Mike Tryon, R-Crystal Lake, is stepping down, citing his increasing responsibilities as state representative for the 66th House District. He is running unopposed for another two-year term.

Daniel said he disagrees with Gasser’s assessment of the vote totals.

“In discussing with Chairman Tryon what we have, we feel we have enough votes to win,” Daniel said.

While both sides can make some very educated guesses at the moment, they won’t know for sure until the election results are made official. 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 by the precinct’s voters in the primary. The process under state law can start April 1 at the earliest to account for late absentee and provisional ballots, and must be certified by the county clerk no later than April 8, or about a week before the party caucus.

“I would find it really hard for anyone to declare victory before we get the canvass from the clerk,” Tryon said.

Daniel said he has been approached by other precinct committeemen who may be interested in running, but said they have been independent requests and not an effort to run as a foil to the slate of newcomers.

Incumbent party Secretary Glenda Miller, who won the nomination for McHenry County Treasurer on Tuesday, said she is interested in possibly running for party treasurer, but has yet to commit. Treasurer Fred Wickham, like Tryon, is stepping down citing other priorities – Wickham, a 30-year precinct committeeman, ran unopposed for another two-year term representing Grafton Township Precinct 7.

Tryon, Daniel and Wickham have chosen their words carefully since the new slate introduced itself in a well-attended Woodstock meet-and-greet before the primary. They support the group’s intentions and energy, but say the group’s methods risk splitting the party.

“It seems to me it was a divisive action, unfortunately, and the Republican Party needs to remain strong,” Wickham said. “I’m not necessarily saying I’m unhappy with the people who are running, but I think the methodology they used was ill-advised at best.”

Gasser disagrees, and repeated the slate’s allegation that the concerns they and like-minded party members have had have been consistently ignored.

“The [McHenry County] Republican Party is so broken right now. It doesn’t work. If you run as a Republican in the primary or the general election, you can count on almost no support from the Executive Committee. We plan to change that,” Gasser said.

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