Rauner attempts conservative 'purge' of Illinois GOP leadership
While Gov. Bruce Rauner was publicly preaching party unity on the campaign trail, behind the scenes, he was quietly leading an effort to purge conservatives from the Illinois Republican State Central Committee, which governs the party.
At issue: the re-election of current Illinois GOP Chairman Timothy O. Schneider of Bartlett, a close ally of Rauner and a sharp critic of State Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) in the recent gubernatorial primary.
"He's in trouble," a source close to the situation told Prairie State Wire.
Lake County GOP Chairman Mark Shaw is mounting a strong challenge to Schneider, sources say.
Republican precinct committeemen on April 18 elected 18 State Central Committee members, or one from each Illinois congressional district.
State Central Committee members will meet in May to select the state party chairman.
Rauner and his allies targeted three State Central Committee members for defeat -- John McGlasson of Pontiac (16th Congressional District/U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger), Robert Winchester Sr. of Rosiclare (15th Congressional District/U.S. Rep. John Shimkus) and Fred Floreth of Springfield (13th Congressional District/U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis).
DeWitt County GOP Chairman Dustin Peterson dropped his challenge to Floreth after reports that he had once been arrested for a DUI.
McGlasson beat out State Rep. Thomas Demmer (R-Dixon) while State Sen. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) defeated Winchester.
"Rauner has bought and paid for the Republican party"
McGlasson publicly backed Ives over Rauner in the primary, leading four GOP legislators and Rauner allies from his district to send him a letter recently asking that he not run for another term.
"You actively opposed and encouraged others to vote against our sitting Republican governor," the letter said.
It was signed by State Rep. David Welter (R-Morris), State Rep. Jerry Lee Long (R-Streator), State Sen. Chuck Weaver (R-Peoria) and State Sen. Dave Syverson (R-Rockford).
McGlasson publicly criticized Schneider for taking sides in the gubernatorial primary.
“He shouldn’t be taking sides in a primary race,” McGlasson said in February. “But it appears as though Rauner has bought and paid for the Republican Party with all the money he’s given it.”
Rauner has given the Illinois GOP $36.5 million since 2014, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections.
Demmer, 31, is a former hospital lobbyist and public relations executive who was first elected to the Illinois House in 2014.
He received attention last summer when he joined Chicago Democrats to criticize an editorial cartoon that called attention to Chicago Public Schools' corruption.
"They're looking for a deal"
While Rauner wanted McGlasson off the State Central Committee, sources said he was open to a deal with Winchester, 73, provided he agreed to support Schneider for another term.
Rose, 44, a lawyer who served in the Illinois House for a decade before moving to the state senate in 2013, was reluctantly drafted to enter the race by Rauner staff and Debra Detmers Fansler of East Alton, a former State Central Committee member and aide to U.S. Rep. John Shimkus (R-Collinsville).
Sources said Rauner allies had offered to have Rose withdraw his candidacy and put a designee of Winchester, a retired state employee who spent 10 years in the Illinois House (1974-84) and joined the State Central Committee in 2002, on the Illinois GOP payroll.
Illinois House GOP Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) and Illinois Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) backed Rose's bid and criticized Winchester for being disloyal to the governor, sources said.
Detmers Fansler, a former aide to then-Illinois Secretary of State George Ryan, was ousted from the State Central Committee in 2014 after backing then-chairman Pat Brady, a Rauner ally who sought to change the party platform to support gay marriage.
Rauner installed Schneider, a longtime friend, as state GOP chairman in May 2014 after he became the party nominee for governor.