Tensions flared Saturday over who should lead an Illinois Republican Party grappling with internal divisions and fallout from a dismal showing in the 2012 elections.
A group of about 40 Republicans attended a meeting of the party’s State Central Committee to say they want Chairman Pat Brady to step down or the state committee to fire him.
The committee is expected to return to discuss the concerns following its executive session.
More conservative members of the party have been trying to oust Brady for months, largely because he took a position in favor of gay marriage. His detractors also say new leadership is needed following serious losses at the polls in November, when Democrats won veto-proof majorities in the Illinois House and Senate and picked up seats in Congress.
“We need a leader people can rally around,” said Mark Stern, a GOP township committeeman from DuPage County. “Pat Brady chose to focus on things that that are divisive rather than the 80 percent of things we all agree on. That’s not leadership.”
Brady, who has declined to step down from his position, survived an attempt last month by some committeemen to vote him out. That effort failed amid concerns that getting rid of him would reflect poorly on a party that’s trying to appeal more to young voters and minorities by being more inclusive.
Brady also had the support of the state’s ranking Republican, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, who announced earlier this month he also supports same-sex marriage. Both men have said they don’t believe government has a place in deciding who should marry.
Saturday’s conflict erupted during a meeting to discuss a preliminary analysis of what went wrong in the 2012 election and what it will take to do better at the polls in the future.
The report is expected to mirror one released by the Republican National Committee last month, which concluded that the party must be more open-minded and do more outreach to Hispanics, African-Americans, women and young voters if they are to be successful in future elections.
Brady and State Central Committeeman Mike Bigger, who’s heading up the Illinois analysis, also said the state party needs to upgrade its database of voter information and improve communication and mentoring opportunities within the party to compete with Democrats.
After the committee voted to adjourn to a closed executive session, the group of detractors moved into a hallway of the Tinley Park Convention Center, where they began chanting “Throw him out” and “We have rights” before a security guard told them they needed to be quiet.