By Bethany Jaeger
Politics often intertwine with state government, but it’s not often that state government tries to control the operations of political parties.
Democrats today advanced a measure that would force the Republican Party to change the way it selects State Central Committee members to match the process of the Democrats. Currently, the general public elects Republican precinct committeemen, who then internally select people to lead the GOP State Central Committee. On the contrary, the Democratic State Central Committee members are elected directly by voters during primary elections.
Rep. Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat and an assistant majority leader in his chamber, is the new sponsor of HB 825, which would require open ballots for Republican State Central Committee members, too. He said the change would improve transparency and would respond to Republicans’ repeated argument that voters elect someone to replace U.S. Sen. Roland Burris, a Democrat appointed by impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich to fill the seat vacated by President Barack Obama.
Republicans debated the idea of letting voters elect their State Central Committee members but rejected it during a statewide convention last year.
Yet, a similar bill, SB 600, is sponsored by Republican Sen. Chris Lauzen and has the support of Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno. Several top Democrats also have signed on in support. Patty Schuh, spokeswoman for Senate Republicans, said while the caucus is split on the measure, it's peculiar that Democrats want to have such a heavy hand in the way Republicans conduct their own business.
Rep. Michael Tryon, a Crystal Lake Republican, said political parties are private organizations that should have the right to self-governance, and it would be “very wrong” for one political party to dictate to another how to operate.
Rep. Skip Saviano, an Elmwood Park Republican who also is a Republican State Central Committee members, said the Democratic leadership flat out is trying to retaliate against Republicans for calling them out on inconsistencies over how to handle Burris’ controversial appointment. It also would kick the GOP when it’s already down, when they hold minorities in both chambers and don’t hold a single constitutional office. “This is an attempt to keep the Republican Party in disarray,” Saviano said to Lang during a House committee this morning.
Saviano said there’s been a longstanding agreement that each political party could conduct its own business. “Now, they’ve crossed the line.”
Then again, the numbers favor the Democrats, which have enough votes to send the bill to the Senate without a single Republican vote. “If they want it to be a done deal, Democrats could pass it and hijack the Republican Party,” Saviano said. “I mean, that’s what this is all about.”