December 1, 2010
SB600: Litmus Test for Party Reform
by Cedra Crenshaw
In speaking to small groups of conservatives across Illinois after the election, many people are disappointed in the results of November 2nd. Michael Madigan won the election, consolidated his clout, and now is at the zenith of his power. Now, Madigan controls both political money under “campaign finance reform” and the legislative rewrite of the map. Plus he now has a grudge since his reputation was tarnished. How did Democratic Governor Quinn, Speaker Madigan and Leader Cullerton all survive the national Republican tsunami? How are Illinois Republicans still in the minority – in every branch of state government?
Now is the time to reform the way our Republican Party chooses our top leadership (SB600). Senate Bill 600 returns Republican Party leadership to a ballot box election during our party primaries. In other words, our leadership would once again be chosen by the people. It’s not a panacea, but reform is critical. If November 2nd did not convince you of that, the outline of events below should.
Under the current system, precinct committeemen in each US congressional district vote for their state central committeemen at the county conventions. Last spring, as a newly elected precinct committeeman, I exercised my vote for party leadership. I decided to vote for party reform (SB600) and the Illinois Republican Party platform which means I had to vote against Bolingbrook mayor and incumbent state central committeeman Roger Claar. This wasn’t an especially difficult decision – Claar is pro-choice, pro-gambling and still believes that George Ryan is innocent.
That night, Roger Claar let me know in no uncertain terms that I had just joined the “naughty” list.
For far too long, certain Republican leaders have put their personal interests above party principles. Roger Claar is a glaring example. He has a public alliance with Democratic state senator AJ Wilhelmi because Wilhelmi brings home the pork for Claar’s Bolingbrook. In fact, Claar was entirely willing once again to let Wilhelmi run unopposed in this election cycle. Since no Republican ran in the primary, I decided to run and was slated in March, just days before the deadline. By competing and not letting an insider safely deal a senate seat to the Democrats, my campaign cost Illinois Democrats and AJ Wilhelmi $1 MILLION defending the seat!
Potential candidates need to know that Claar’s endorsement does not even guarantee a win in his supposed stronghold of DuPage Township (Will County). With Claar’s support, both Bill Brady and State Rep. Candidate Maripat Oliver lost DuPage Township. Without Claar’s endorsement, I received more votes than both.
These examples are why Roger Claar’s “leadership” is so devastating to the Illinois Republican Party and the on-going concern of our state. Political deals are bankrupting our state financially and crippling our party’s ability to provide answers.
But, that’s only half the story:
During the same “elections” for party leadership and the state central committee last spring, from his perch of party power, Roger Claar is known to have bullied a future congressman’s fundraising campaign.
In March, newly nominated congressional candidate Adam Kinzinger supported Cory Singer to represent his own congressional district as state central committeeman. Claar however wanted to retain incumbent Barbara Peterson. I watched as the votes, hard work, and voices of my fellow precinct committeemen in the 11th congressional district were diluted when my county chairman voted all of the “vacant precincts” for Barbara Peterson. I was a witness as favors and insider relationships were traded – alongside intimidation and fear.
Claar let Kinzinger know in no uncertain terms that fundraising was in jeopardy. Roger Claar was willing to endanger a congressional seat, and possibly the national balance of power, for his own power play. We all know how this race turned out – congressman-elect Kinzinger won handily and is now on the national GOP transition team as a fast rising Top Gun.
Leaving party leadership decisions to party insiders willing to intimidate and corrupt the process needs to stop. Senate Bill 600 would put this power in the hands of the Republican primary voters.
Given a choice, I trust the Republican voters more than the insiders. Let’s run some real elections. The competition will be good for all of us.
Party leaders must be challenged if they are actively working against our own candidates. Party leaders should work to strengthen the voices of the people, not seek to silence them. It’s bad enough that Illinois Republican candidates have the Democrats working against them. It’s downright shameful and deplorable that Republicans in leadership positions work against Republican candidates as well. It’s got to stop. The line in the sand is drawn. Which side are you on?
Take action to reform the Illinois Republican Party by contacting your state representative and let them know that you want SB600 passed.
Run for precinct committeeman or recruit people who will.
Get actively involved in a liberty focused action group.
And last but not least, consider running for public office yourself.
Cedra Crenshaw is a wife, mother, education reformer and professional accountant. She was the Republican candidate for the Illinois State Senate in the 43rd District in 2010. She can be reached at Cedra@CedraCrenshaw.com.