Newt Gingrich launching petition drive for Illinois Republican primary ballot

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s presidential effort has launched its signature drive to put him and a slate of convention nominating delegates on Illinois’ primary ballot, but the state campaign shows no prominent Republican backing at this point.

The Gingrich campaign is being chaired by Barrington attorney Keith Hanson, who also hosted a fundraiser for the candidate last September.

“This is the most critical grassroots function a volunteer can provide, and we appreciate all of the hard work they are doing on behalf of the Illinois with Newt campaign,” Hanson said of the petition drive.

The 54 delegate and alternate delegate candidates the campaign is seeking to put on the March 20 ballot for the Republican National Convention shows some tea party influence but only a few current state lawmakers.

Among the most well-known names are former state Rep. Bill Black of Danville and Bobbie Peterson of Beecher, a member of the Republican State Central Committee. Also on the list is state Sen. Darin LaHood of Dunlap, son of current Obama administration Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Ray LaHood, a former Republican member of Congress from Peoria, was one of three Republican members of the House to refuse to sign Gingrich’s 1994 Contract With America. Before being elected to Congress, the elder LaHood also was formerly at top aide to House Republican Leader Robert Michel of Peoria, who was pressured to step aside by Gingrich.