Illinois Republican leaders on Saturday choose a lobbyist and Rosemont trustee to serve as state party chairman following several hours of closed door talks.
Jack Dorgan's selection follows the resignation of former chair Pat Brady, who came under fire for bucking the Republican platform when he announced his support for gay marriage.
“We've had some growing pains right now, and we’re ready, we're united, were going to move forward and show people there's a two-party system (in Illinois),” said Dorgan, who was the favorite entering deliberations.
Dorgan has long been involved in Republican politics, beginning as an aide to the late Rep. Roger McAuliffe, who long held the designation as the only Republican legislator from Chicago. Dorgan also served as deputy chief of staff to former House Speaker Lee Daniels and as an aide to Gov. Jim Thompson and director of the Liquor Control Commission under Gov. Jim Edgar.
But Dorgan also has close ties to Illinois' ruling Democrats. He founded a lobbying practice with James McPike, a former majority leader for House Speaker Michael Madigan, who doubles as Illinois Democratic Party chairman.
The firm’s clients include Ameren, AT&T, Fairmount Park race track, the Illinois Hospital Association and the Illinois Asphalt Pavement Association, a group formerly headed by Bill Cellini, who is now serving prison time after being convicted of federal corruption charges.
Other finalists for the position included Hinsdale businessman Jim Nalepa; Angel Garcia, head of the Chicago Young Republicans; Lake Forest attorney Mark Shaw; Springfield lawyer Don Tracy; Chicago attorney Lori Yokoyama and former congressman and tea party activist Joe Walsh.
Each candidate had five minutes to sell themselves to members of the Republican State Central Committee before the group conducted closed door interviews. Deliberations were not open to the public, but officials said Dorgan won after the first round of balloting.
Dorgan stressed his ability to “hit the ground running,” saying he was a “coalition builder” and had staff members that were prepared to begin work immediately. Garcia and Yokoyama talkedup their ability to connect to young, women and minority voters. Shaw highlighted his conservative beliefs while Nalepa vowed to advance the GOP platform, declaring “we are right.”
Tracy joked that he has “been trying to make amends” since running as a Democrat for a state Senate seat in 2002. Meanwhile, Walsh blasted the selection process as a foregone conclusion that would further alienate grassroots Republicans already disenfranchised by state leadership.
The chairman post is a volunteer position that even some Republicans call one of the worst jobs in the state, given internal divisions within the party and the Democratic stronghold on state government. But Dorgan said he was prepared to meet the challenge, starting with immediate efforts to recruit candidates before petitions begin circulating for 2014 races.
“I'm excited about it, I'm a 30-year veteran of Republican politics of this state and wether you like government or don't, it's there and it's a necessity,” Dorgan said.