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Prairie State Wire

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Winchester's civil rights suit against Illinois GOP awaits judge's review


By Robert Hadley | Sep 30, 2018

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A federal judge is considering whether to dismiss former Republican State Central Committee member Bob Winchester’s civil rights case against the Illinois Republican party.

The case centers on whether the Illinois GOP allegedly conspired to oust Winchester from the Republican Central Committee. Winchester alleges Illinois GOP leaders violated state law by using the process of acclamation to defeat him in his re-election bid. By using acclamation (whereby a candidate receiving more than half the votes in a county wins the whole county) and by keeping him off the ballot in some counties, the suit alleges the Illinois Republican Party was able to elect state Sen. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) to take Winchester’s place on the committee.

So far, motions from both sides are stuck in the U.S. District Court for Southern Illinois, Benton Division as Judge Staci M. Yandle considers their merits. Winchester is petitioning to proceed with a hearing, while the Illinois GOP has moved to dismiss the case. Winchester told the Prairie State Wire via email he expects a decision in October, but the entire process may take as long as a year.

State Central Committee member Bob Winchester

Some sources say the alleged conspiracy to unseat Winchester may have been fueled by his support of state Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) against Gov. Bruce Rauner in the gubernatorial primary and for failing to support Rauner’s favorite for state GOP chair, Tim Schneider.

In an email to the Prairie State Wire, Winchester said he was apparently on track to win re-election to his Central Committee post until he refused to abandon his support of Mark Shaw as chair of Illinois GOP in favor of Schneider. 

“On April 18, I started receiving calls that chairmen and precinct committeemen were getting the full court press to switch from me to Rose,” Winchester told the Prairie State Wire.

After the Rose campaign was in full swing, Winchester said he lost Richmond County and half the vote in Wayne County – both of which had previously committed to him.

“The key county was Madison,” he said. “I got 60 percent of the vote, then a motion and second was made (by the committee) to give me the unanimous vote. Shimkus’ staff said that was against the rules – It was not! I ended up losing by a few thousand votes where I should have won by nearly 6,000.”

Schneider was subsequently re-elected as Illinois Republican Party Chairman although Shaw was also named co-chairman

He said fellow GOP Central Committee Member Deb Detmers, also a staffer for U.S. Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), previously told him Rauner’s team was behind Rose’s campaign. This disclosure occurred when he told Detmers he would not switch support from Shaw to Schneider.

“The Illinois Republican Party is controlled by Rauner through Schneider,” Winchester said. “The IRP staff (members) like their jobs, so they quickly declared Chapin Rose as the winner. The only recourse I had was a lawsuit.”

In his email to the Prairie State Wire, Winchester said the court could dismiss his petition, send it back to state court, or proceed with a hearing under Judge Yandle.

Winchester, represented by attorney Steve Boulton, said Dan Proft and others are funding his lawsuit. Proft is principal of Local Government Information Services, owner of this publication.

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