Eaton: More of the same for Cook County GOP
By Fran Eaton Always Right/illinoisreview.typepad.com April 24, 2012 7:46PM
Updated: May 26, 2012 8:17AM
Last Wednesday night, Cook County Republican township committeemen gathered to select a new party chairman amid hope that a new chapter would be opening. Over the past decade, the GOP chairmanship has been ineffective, inept and embarrassing.
But it looks like that dreadful pattern will remain in light of the committeemen’s pick for chairman, 33-year-old Palatine Township GOP chairman Aaron Del Mar.
Now before you abandon this column as being too “inside baseball,” bear with me because whether you’re Democrat, Republican, independent or whatever, what happens within the Cook County Republican Party affects you.
Many Republicans hoped that a new county leader would unify a divided organization, charging up frustrated and angry taxpayers to take the battle to the unchallenged Democrats who have dominated and devastated Cook County and the state of Illinois.
In recent years, the Cook County GOP has been chaired by an array of politicians — county Commissioner Elizabeth Gorman, former Palatine Township Committeeman Gary Skoien, former Palos Township Committeeman Lee Roupas and, until last week, Lemont Township Committeeman Sig Vaznelis. None was effective, largely because of Gorman.
Except for Skoien’s short reign that ended abruptly due to a family scandal, the Cook County GOP has been run by Gorman, of Orland Park. She pushed fellow county committeemen hard to vote for Roupas, Vaznelis and Del Mar as chairman. Every time one of them won, she gained power, but the Cook County GOP became more powerless.
In the March 20 primary election, 402,495 Cook County Democrats voted for the uncontested Barack Obama while only 199,683 Republicans participated in the six-way presidential primary, according to the county election board. That’s two Democrats voting for every one Republican in the state’s most populous county, again demonstrating the impotence of the Republican Party in Cook County.
It’s shameful that no two-party system exists in Cook County. Many offices, from the Legislature to countywide posts to judges, had no Republican candidate last month. Who ultimately suffers from this lack of choice? Just about everyone — taxpayers, business owners, senior citizens, homeowners, the mentally ill, the unemployed and children. As long as Democrats are unaccountable, they can do what they want.
Last week’s GOP committeemen meeting didn’t only end hope for real change, it made things more troubling. Besides heading the Palatine Township GOP, Del Mar, who won the county chairmanship by a very slim margin, is a member of the Palatine Village Board and owns several businesses — Chicago Casino & Poker Rentals, Adrenaline Sports Management, Aaron’s Inflatables and Chicagoland Office Solutions.
Chicago Casino & Poker Rentals provides casino equipment and gaming personnel for events such as fundraisers, bachelor parties and birthday parties.
The company’s website says the casino rental services are legal, even for minors, because the events do not distribute cash prizes. But upon request, Chicago Casino & Poker Rentals does provide “personable, professional and extremely interactive” Las Vegas-type showgirls to enhance the casino experience.
The quasi-gambling events are one of the many services provided by Del Mar’s Articulate Promotions enterprise. Now scrubbed from the company website are newsletters that had featured women painted as jungle animals on all fours, and many newsletter photos featured Del Mar enjoying the company of scantily-clad staffers.
Maybe that’s no big deal to most, but it’s not the kind of image that a leader of a party that emphasizes family values should foster — although fundraising could pick up significantly if Del Mar’s talents are put to good use.
And speaking of the Cook County GOP’s need to raise cash, the party as of the end of March showed a balance of $426, even though it did not spend money assisting Republican candidates in the primary election.
But on April 16, two days before Del Mar was elected county GOP chairman, failed candidate Sean Morrison suddenly wrote a $5,000 check to the party. Gorman strongly supported Morrison in his challenge to Dan Patlak, the only Republican on the three-member county board of review, which hears property tax appeals.
Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar-Topinka announced this week that Illinois is more than $8 billion in arrears in paying health care providers. We’re “treading water,” she said, and our chances of drowning are growing while surrounding states begin to regain their financial breaths. Without a viable GOP in Cook County, nothing much will change.
Empowered by their Cook County power base, House Speaker Michael Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton and Gov. Pat Quinn will continue to do what they want to do. The rest of us, not only in Cook County but throughout the state, will have little choice but to shut up and pay up, or get the heck out of town.
This Cook County GOP fiasco won’t be over until you get involved and rebel against the abuses of a Democratic machine that has ruled for decades. It’s long past due to turn the page.
Fran Eaton is a Southland resident who co-founded and edits the conservative political blog, illinoisreview.com.