By Jamey Dunn
The last few days have been important for the Illinois Republican Party, as it chose a new chair and the first Republican gubernatorial candidate stepped forward.
After a closed-door meeting in Springfield on Saturday, the Republican State Central Committee choose Jack Dorgan, a lobbyist and trustee for the Village of Rosemont, to serve as state party chair.
Dorgan replaces outgoing party chair Pat Brady, who resigned after conservatives complained about his pro-gay marriage stance, which runs counter to the Republicans' platform. (For more on Brady’s resignation and some of the challenges facing the party, see Illinois Issues May 2013.) “I'm excited about it. I'm a 30-year veteran of Republican politics of this state, and whether you like government or don't, it's there and it's a necessity,” Dorgan told reporters after he won the vote. Dorgan was the presumptive candidate, but he faced competition for the volunteer post that included Angel Garcia head of the Chicago Young Republicans and former Congressman Joe Walsh.
Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford told various media outlets last week that he plans to run for governor in 2014. However, he officially kicked off his campaign with a media tour that began on Sunday.
Rutherford highlighted his ability to attract minority voters and support from voters in Chicago and the city’s suburbs. Rutherford cites these strategies as key to winning his treasurer bid in 2010. “We reached into people’s communities of diversity, whether it’s skin color or religion or cultural backgrounds, and resonated with what was important, not just to them but to everybody,” he said in Springfield. “And what I sense now is, we can win this race. I’m the only Republican looking to run for governor of Illinois that has actually won a statewide race.”
He acknowledged that his party has work to do when it comes to finding supporters outside of its traditionally Caucasian base in the state. “My Republican Party has got to do things differently. My Republican Party has got to understand and accept that the mosaic of Illinois is very diverse. And that there are people that pray to different god, and there are people that have different accents, and there people that have different skin, and there are people that have different mother countries.”
“And with that being said, they have the same concerned that anyone else has, and that is about having a safe community in Chicago and elsewhere. It’s about having a job.”
Rutherford said he knows he will face a crowded primary election field, and if he survives that, a difficult general election. “We know this isn’t easy; it’s going to be a real challenge. And in my party’s primary, I know our front I’m going to be totally outspent. I understand that,” He said. “It’s going to be uphill. It’s not easy winning Illinois, as a Republican, and I know that it’s going to be a challenge. But we have the path to win, and I feel confident that we will.”