Citing gay marriage, state rep withdraws from Illinois GOP chair search

May 15, 2013

Illinois State Senate
Illinois State Representative Ron Sandack, of suburban Downers Grove, withdrew his name early Wednesday for the state GOP chair position.

Illinois Republican State Rep. Ron Sandack is bowing out of the running to become the next state GOP chairman, in part because some party insiders thought his support for same-sex marriage would be too controversial.

Sandack, from suburban Downers Grove, withdrew his name early Wednesday. He said he had heard from a number of Republican activists, elected officials and “inside party people” who suggested his public support of same-sex marriage legislation in Springfield might be too controversial for him to get the chairmanship.

But Sandack told WBEZ Wednesday afternoon he did not feel pressured to withdraw his name.

“The issue is controversial,” he said. “And I don’t wanna be a fight, and that issue to be a fight, when we really oughta be talking about who’s best suited to be the next party chairman.”

Sandack also expressed concerns about dividing his time between running the state party and serving constituents.

The issue of same-sex marriage has been a thorny one for the Illinois Republican Party. Former state GOP chairman Pat Brady resigned last week following an embarrassing public flap over his support for gay marriage. Brady’s opponents maintained his support of gay marriage wasn’t the reason he had to go, but because he publicly bucked a plank in the party platform, which defines marriage as being between a man and a woman.

Sandack echoed that concern Wednesday, anticipating his “yes” vote for gay marriage in the Illinois House before the end of the General Assembly’s spring session.

“I am in the state House and I gotta vote my district and my conscience and try and do, you know, both,” Sandack said. “Sometimes that doesn’t comport with the black-letter law of the party platform.”

Sandack said no member of the Republican State Central Committee, the panel of party bosses who will pick the next chairman, encouraged him to drop out.

Sandack’s withdrawal means party bosses now have eight chairman candidates to choose from.

Still in the running is Cook County Commissioner Timothy Schneider, of Elk Grove Village; former Tea Party Congressman Joe Walsh; former congressional candidate Jim Nalepa; former Illinois lieutenant governor candidate Don Tracy; former Cook County State's Attorney candidate Lori Yokoyama; and current Republican State Central Committee members Jack Dorgan, Angel Garcia and Mark Shaw.

Correction: This story was updated to change the spelling of Lori Yokoyama's name, and the office for which she ran in 2012.

Alex Keefe is a WBEZ political reporter. Follow him @akeefe.