Illinois GOP to elect national convention representatives

By Daniel Johnson

Although the Illinois Republican party maintains this weekend’s convention will be about more than just selecting the committeeman and woman to represent the state at the national convention, the buzz is all but focused on those up for the representative spots.

“The biggest event for this weekend is far and away the election of the committeeman and woman,” said Kristin Williamson, an officer with the Champaign County Republican party. “We’re really not too involved with it downstate; it’s mostly people from upstate that are going for the two spots.”

Those that are up for the male representative spot are Patrick M. Brady, Steve Rauschenberger, Ryan Scott Higgins, Brian L. Kruse and Fredric F. Bunge. For the women, the candidates are comprised of Demetra DeMonte, Carol Smith Donovan and Kathy Salvi. Congressman Ray LaHood, R-Peoria, of the state’s 18th district was also a candidate but withdrew recently.

“Once (Ray) LaHood dropped out, it has gotten messy, he was the only real favorite, in my eyes,” said Gordy Hulten, founder of local political blog “He had announced that he wanted to run, but since he dropped out, everything has been pretty chaotic.”

With the candidates vying for the two spots, there has been a good deal of speculation about who may or may not be a front runner for the chance to represent the party. But those that are involved with the convention are hazy on who might stand the best chance at garnering the positions.

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“I really haven’t gotten to that point, a big part of that will be happening Friday or Saturday,” said Republican state Sen. Dale Righter of Mattoon. “Everyone has been so busy getting ready for this and with all of the national election; I think most people are going to be deciding over the weekend.”

Beyond the elections of the committeeman and woman, Righter said the convention will be a time to focus on “change” and realignment for Illinois Republicans.

“It’s my hope, anyway, that this (weekend) will be intended to solidify our message, we need to better articulate our change in direction,” Righter said. “It’s ironic because change seems to be the message of the Democratic party on the federal level, and that’s our message on the state level too. We want to change how the state is being run on a very broad platform.”

Righter said this weekend will play a big role for candidates trying to establish themselves for the next possible election cycle, giving them an opportunity to make a name for themselves.

“It’s a chance for someone to start a grass roots campaign with a weekend like this,” he said. “It’s going to be a while before there is a spot open for election, but for someone trying to run, and for our party as a whole, this weekend is about getting the wheels turning.”