Illinois GOP chairman quits

August 20, 2009 (SPRINGFIELD, Ill.) Illinois Republican Chairman Andy McKenna stepped down Thursday morning, giving virtually no one any advance notice.

VIDEO: Illinois GOP chairman quits
VIDEO: Six gubernatorial candidates show up for picnic

He took the job in 2005.

He was not a universally well-liked chairman of a party that currently holds no statewide offices in Illinois. Nevertheless, he hopes that his last major play, to convince North Shore Congressman Mark Kirk to run for the United States Senate, will eventually seal his legacy as a positive one.

Kirk is the undisputed, some say "anointed," Republican frontrunner for the U.S. Senate nomination, and he knows it.

"My Congressional district represents only six percent of the state, and to already be the frontrunner shows that the wind might be at our backs," Kirk said.

The moderate Kirk agreed to leave his secure seat in Congress after weeks of urging by the newly-resigned chairman, McKenna. McKenna reportedly promised the congressman there would be no meaningful competition in next February's primary.

"Mark and I are great friends, and I think I'm very pleased that in national polls, he's leading in that," McKenna said.

Nevertheless, the move has outraged the party's right wing, leading to a small protest outside the Republican picnic. At least six other candidates--most of them conservatives--have filed for the U.S. Senate seat despite McKenna.

"The congressman is not a fiscal conservative. Even if he says he's for fiscal responsibility and restraint, that's not what his votes show," Republican U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Hughes said. "We have a number of candidates running and the reason they're running is because they have a difference with Mark Kirk," Republican U.S. Senate candidate Don Lowery said.

McKenna--who says he'll campaign for Kirk and for an unnamed governor's candidate in the primary--says during his time as chairman he tried to "tamp down" the party's right wing fringe for an obvious reason.

"I think this is about winning in November," McKenna said.

But the right wing fire flared again Thursday morning when the county chairman's association denied an appearance by the ultra-conservative U.S. Senate candidate Andy Martin.

"We're fighters. We're going to go after Kirk, we're going to beat him and we're going to have an upset on February 2nd," Martin said.

The Republican Party's National Republican Committee man from Illinois, Pat Brady, was elected Thursday to serve the remainder of Andy McKenna's term.

Six gubernatorial candidates show up for picnic

The old timers say there was a larger turnout this year for the party's picnic and earlier breakfast. And one reason, for sure, is the fact that six candidates for governor showed up looking for statewide name recognition while pushing reform.

"It's very important for the Republican party. We get to all come together, we get to meet and we get to talk about our goals," said Bob Schillerstrom, (R) candidate for governor.

"I think the people of Illinois at a minimum level deserve good government and the reform of government," said Adam Andrzejewski, (R) candidate for governor.

Longtime state senator Bill Brady of Bloomington is the only one of the six who does not live in Chicago area and says the state's seen enough of Chicago politicians.

"The rest of Illinois has been ignored the last six to eight years," said Brady.

But Chicago-area businessman Dan Proft says geography has nothing to do with it.

"He's been in the legislature for 15 years and I'm a Chicago politician. He talks about his legislative experience. How's that working out for us?" said Proft.

The tallest candidate, Palatine's Matt Murphy, arrived armed with video.

The ad takes a shot at an unnamed not conservative enough opponent.

"You look like another Democrat running as a Republican, you're not going to be able to win," said Murphy.

Naperville's Senator Kirk Dillard is widely believed to be the target. Dillard had the most signs and t-shirts and won for the biggest reporter scrum.

"Clearly it's flattering to think that my opponents think I'm the frontrunner," said Dillard.

But all six candidates could have enough money to run their campaigns well into the winter months. And the longer they stay in the race, the greater the chance that anything could happen next February.

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