Illinois Republican panel blocks direct elections of top leaders, as GOP meets in Tinley Park

June 9, 2012

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Illinois Republicans on Friday blocked a move to have their leaders elected directly by voters. The move came during the first day of the party’s convention.

Unlike Democrats, the Illinois Republican Party does not let voters directly pick its state central committee members. This has led to a lot of tension, and pitted some activist Republicans against establishment ones.

John Parrot chairs the McLean County GOP, and proposed the change Friday during a committee meeting.

"I believe that every time that we can open up the process and let the citizens of the state of Illiniois take the responsibility of electing who they want to serve then, I think we're better off as a county and we're better off as a state," Parrot said.

But some Republicans said that by requiring the elections, "everyday Joes" would be actually be unable to ascend the party ranks.

Currently, state central committee members are selected by lower ranks of party officials, who are elected by voters in primary elections.

Under the proposed change, one woman and one man from each of the state's congressional districts would be elected by voters to serve the state GOP. That's how Democrats do it.

"How do you get your name out there in a district that big unless you have name recognition, unless you already have money behind you?" asked Rachel Ossyra is Naperville Township GOP Chair, who opposed the resolution.

A committee voted against it, 11 to 7, so it’s unlikely to come up for a vote Saturday when GOP delegates from around the state meet at the Tinley Park Convention Center for a "general session" of the party.

One of the alternate delegates is Lois Flaws of south suburban Rich Township. Flaws said she's been a Republican precinct captain there for 56 years.

The area’s trended more Democratic in recent year, though she still goes door-to-door campaigning for Republican candidates.

"But now you have to skip a lot of houses because you know they’ll ignore you," Flaws said.

That won’t stop her from campaigning for Mitt Romney for president.

"I’m going to work hard for him, although he wasn’t my first choice, but that’s okay," said Flaws, who was more of a Newt Gingrich fan.

Jon Zahm was a Rick Santorum fan. In fact, he ran Santorum’s Illinois campaign. Zahm acknowledged that some volunteers are still “licking their wounds and resting.”

"But as we get closer to November there’ll be a lot of activity from the Santorum people on behalf of Romney," he said.

The Illinois Republican Party closes out its convention today in southwest suburban Tinley Park.