By Bethany Jaeger
As a handful of Republicans toss their hats into the ring for Illinois governor, their party’s ringleader of sorts surprised top GOP officials by stepping down Thursday during a meeting in Springfield.
Andy McKenna, chairman of the Illinois Republican Party since 2005, told state central committee members he was resigning to allow the party to transition before the February 2 primary elections, rather than waiting until his term was supposed to end. “I don’t to want distract you [during] the general election race,” he said.
The State Central Committee elected Pat Brady, a national committeeman, to fill out the rest of McKenna’s term. Members will elect a new chairperson after the primary election.
Countering some speculation, McKenna did not announce a bid for another race. He previously expressed interest in a bid for the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by President Barack Obama. His actions sparked controversy within the party, as Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk, a five-term representative from Hinsdale, has announced in that race and is considered the front runner in the four-way contest.
McKenna instead told state central committee members that he would focus on building resources and getting involved in primary contests as chair of a “victory fund,” which he created to support Illinois’ GOP candidates.
The timing of McKenna’s resignation surprised party leaders, but Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno said: “There’s been speculation for a while that a change might be coming. I don’t think anyone knew it was going to happen today or in this particular venue.”
She added, however, that the timing did help to avoid a distraction leading up to November 2010. “I think that it’s important that we get this chapter closed and settled and we have a new person at the helm the minute the primary’s over so that we can focus on the Democrats and not on the internal politics.”