Illinois GOP Chairman Pat Brady to resign

May 6, 2013

(WBEZ/Alex Keefe)
Chairman Pat Brady presides over a meeting of the Illinois Republican State Central Committee in April. Brady resigned his post Tuesday, following a months-long controversy stemming from his public support of same-sex marriage.

Illinois State Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady resigned Tuesday morning, following months of GOP infighting sparked by his public support for same-sex marriage.

Brady planned to email his resignation letter to party officials early Tuesday.

In an interview with WBEZ Monday afternoon, Brady said he’s stepping down from the unpaid post he has held since August 2009 to spend more time with his family as his wife battles ovarian cancer.

“I need to be home with her,” Brady said. “But you know, it’s a combination of things, but I’ve been doing it for four years so it’s time for – for new blood.”

Brady rankled his more conservative rivals on the GOP’s State Central Committee in early January, when he unexpectedly released a statement announcing his “full support” for a pending same-sex marriage bill in Springfield, a stance that contradicts the Republican Party platform. But he also ostracized some more moderate party bosses who complained that Brady didn’t even notify them before he made his bombshell announcement.

On Monday, Brady sought to downplay the significance of the controversy, which he said has hurt donations to the state party leading into the 2014 election cycle.

“Well, it certainly was a factor in my decision, but not an overriding factor,” he said. “The gay marriage issue was just something that certainly angered some people on the Central Committee and they wanted a different direction.”

Brady’s detractors have been organizing behind the scenes to vote him out since January, though they’ve repeatedly failed to muster enough votes. Those efforts, spearheaded by committeemen Jerry Clarke, of Urbana, and Jim Oberweis, a west suburban state senator, came to a head at a rowdy party meeting in April.

After a three-hour closed-door session, Brady emerged with his job intact. But party bosses agreed to begin quietly searching for Brady’s replacement, with the understanding that he would resign on his own terms in a few weeks, according to several people in the meeting.

The party has heard from lots of interested candidates, Oberweis said Monday night, but wouldn’t give a timeline for choosing a final replacement. According to party bylaws, GOP Vice Chairman Carol Smith Donovan will fill Brady’s spot until party leaders pick a successor. Illinois State Sen. Matt Murphy, of Palatine, was a possible candidate before he withdrew his name last week. Other possibilities include Cook County Commissioner Tim Schneider and State Central Committeeman Mark Shaw.

Brady’s original announcement last winter drew quick fire from national conservative groups, and quick support from some prominent Illinois Republicans, such as U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, Comptroller Judy Barr Topinka and former Govs Jim Edgar and Jim Thompson.

It also laid bare many long-simmering squabbles within the state GOP. Brady’s opponents are quick to say his support for same-sex marriage, an increasingly popular issue among key potential voting groups such as suburban women and young people, is not the only reason they wanted him gone. They also point to Illinois Republicans’ poor showing in November’s elections. For some, personal rivalries and vendettas seem to have played a role.

On Monday, Brady conceded the party should have won more seats in the last election cycle, though he also pointed to the success of 2010, when Republicans gained a majority in the state’s congressional delegation.

Now, Brady said he believes he’s leaving the party in better shape than when he took the helm four years ago.

“I wanna see the party grow,” Brady said. “I think I wanna see the party be more open and more diverse and adapt to the times.”

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