-By Warner Todd Huston
A week or two ago I reported on a sort of messy little battle going on in Kane County for the Chairmanship of the County Board. The fight is between longtime State Senator Chris Lauzen -- retiring 25th District State Senator -- and Kevin Burns -- the current Mayor of Geneva. As it happens, the Chairman of the Illinois GOP, Pat Brady, has signed up as Mayor Burns' campaign chairman and I wondered why the state party chair was getting himself involved in something as far down the line as a mere county chairman's race. Well, Chairman Brady has told me why and now you are about to learn his reasons, too.
First of all, I have to apologize to all those folks I contacted about this story for not getting to it sooner. I spent a week in Washington DC and am just now catching up to the swing of things here again. Travel always so disrupts my routine that it is like pulling teeth to get back to it all. Secondly, I've styled this website as one that reports on all of Illinois GOP politics, not just the doings of those I may like. So, as a reporter I must give both sides of these issues a forum to be heard (and if you feel I am missing a story out there, please do contact me).
Now, to get to the question. As State GOP Party Chairman Brady signed onto this race for Kane County Chair, I wanted to know why our state chairman was involving himself in a mere county chairman's race instead of using his time to build the state party? Why is he messing around in a local race?
The answer is one born of frustration as it happens. Chairman Brady apparently has had it up to there with what he feels is Senator Lauzen's disloyalty to the party power structure. He's bucked the system one time too many as far as Mr. Brady is concerned.
Senator Lauzen has always been a movement guy, to be sure. He's never taken many pains to play footsie with any entrenched establishment. He's always lived strictly by his own set of principles and ideals. Anyone that has watched Kane County in general and Mr. Lauzen's career in particular would immediately recognize that bowing for mere politics has never been his style.
In fact, Lauzen made a name for himself in the early 1990s by taking the hard road in politics. He was one of the "fab five" conservatives that reigned in the State Senate in the 1990s and that bucked the status quo ushering in a decade of conservative solutions for the state. Unfortunately, Madigan and his cohorts have about erased all that great work, but, hey, we had it for a few minutes, anyway.
But politics is still politics. Conservative or no there is an expectation that you need to work with the party at least some of the time and Chairman Brady says that this is something that Chris Lauzen will not do often enough. Brady made some very specific charges against Lauzen to show what he obviously feels is Lauzen's disloyalty.
"Lauzen consistently ignores the results of the primaries and campaigns against our candidates in the general elections," Brady told me in our communications. This led him to join Burns' team in order to keep Lauzen from taking a role at the Kane County Board.
One of the things that Brady feels that Lauzen did was to run a phone bank against Mark Kirk in 2010. Brady says that Lauzen worked with challenging candidate Mike Labno who faced Mark Kirk in the 2010 primary both vying to become the Republican nominee to run for the Senate seat that Barack Obama left vacant when he ran for president (the one temporarily filled by appointee Roland Burris). Kirk was certainly the establishment candidate and did, indeed, go on to win a Senate seat in Washington.
It might be remembered that Labno was hitting so hard on Kirk's lack of conservatism that Democrat Alexi Giannoulias even touted Labno's campaign in hopes that his notice would further damage Kirk. So, if Lauzen was actively assisting Labno against the party choice of Kirk, I can see how that might irk the Party Chairman.
Kirk was "our chance to win a U.S. Senate seat," Brady said, "and our 20-year Senator was campaigning against Kirk just like Obama and Quinn!"
Brady also charges that Lauzen ran a phone bank against the party candidates in the 2006 Congressional races.
Lauzen made no bones about the fact that he was not all very excited over Kirk's candidacy in 2010. It was well known that he was not a rah-rah booster for Mark Kirk. But Senator Lauzen denies that he ran any phone bank for Labno or for anyone else back in 2006, for that matter. He says he did not work against Kirk in the general election.
For Brady, this is also about strategy.
As I said in my endorsement letter, Kane County is the epicenter of our comeback strategy. If we are going to succeed as a party, we need to get rid of the career (aka. pension enhancers and health insurance for life) guys like Lauzen, who make their own rules, but then cry foul when called out. As rule, I stay out of the primaries unless I think it is in the best interests of the party and getting Lauzen out is in the best interest of the party and I feel any objective observer would agree.
Senator Lauzen made sure I knew that he had declined pension enhancement and health insurance. "The people of Illinois have given me enough," he said. Also, Senator Lauzen has been repeatedly returned to office by the voters in Kane County and that is something that is important to note, too.
But there is also something to be said for giving a Party Chairmen the people he feels he needs to build the party in the way he thinks best. I mean, that is what a party is for and a chairman's job is to whip things into shape. Someone has to make the moves, right? If we want the party rebuilt, a strong leader leading a team he trusts is a must. At some level, a party chairman has every right to try to get who he wants in positions that will assist him in building the party. If Brady feels his rebuilding strategy hinges on Kane County, then we should expect him to try and help seat someone he feels can easily work with to do that rebuilding.
Whether we as voters agree or disagree with that party chairman's efforts is sentiment that needs to guide those leaders, though. We all need to speak up through our committeemen and other leaders to guide Brady's moves. That IS how politics works, folks.
So, there you have it point and counter point on the race for Kane County Chairman.