Ever since William Hale Thompson, possibly the most corrupt politician in America’s history, ended his term as Mayor of Chicago in 1931, Republicans have become nothing more than an afterthought in the city. As political junkies and insiders prepare for several interesting
committeeman races among Democrats, including one in 32, the Republican races are largely ignored, or worse mocked.
That’s a view that even long time 32nd Ward Republican Committeeman John Curry agrees with. “The party unfortunately has been run down over a number of years with no money in the bank,” said Curry in an exclusive interview with the Welles Park Bulldog. Curry continued with a hopefuly sign to the future, “I’m very encouraged by the new leadership.”
Curry singled out the relatively new Cook County Republican Chairman, Sig Vaznelas, saying, “He’s worked hard at assembling a new leadership team.” Curry also said a number of new North and Northwest Side Republican Committeemen are injecting the kind of new blood that he believes will carry the party forward. Curry mentioned a number of relatively new committeemen that he’s confident in: Adam Robinson in 48, Dave Ratowitz in 47, Scott Davis in 44, Jason Cordova in 45, and Chris Cleveland in 43. He called all these folks, “the nucleus of new Republican party going forward.”
Curry named three main responsibilities for any committeeman: getting out the vote, reach out to people to expand the part, and appointing election judges. The third is of extra importance with the notorious history of Chicago because election judges are, “the first line of the defense against vote fraud,” says Curry.
Curry says that the traditional source of power for committeemen is patronage. “In the past, patronage has been the fuel of a committeeman.” Of course, if you are a Republican committeeman, there’s not much patronage as Republicans control almost nothing in the city. “That’s a good thing,” says Curry because it gives the party an opportunity to grow without getting involved in the practice that has corrupted much of the state.
For Curry, he says five broad goals for the Republicans going forward: improved city wide leadership, development of the party as a reliable institution, an organization that is able to raise funds, one that is respected by the media, and one that can recruit good candidates.
While those goals are worthwhile, lately the only time anyone is talking about the Republicans in Chicago it was for all the wrong reasons. Last summer, a scandal exploded as Chicago Republican Party Chairwoman, Eloise Gerson, accused then Cook County Republican Party employee Jeremy Rose of a sexual assault. She also accused then Cook County Republican Party Chairman, Lee Roupas, of covering up for Rose. The incident in question occurred a year prior and it happened after a party held by the Chicago Young Republicans, of which Rose was President. According to Rose, the incident was investigated and settled internally by the CYR’s and no one was covering up anything. His supporters accused Gerson and her allies of ginning this up in perverted attempted to wrestle control of the party. Gerson and her allies accused their opponents of protecting Rose and also accused many, Curry included, of secretly being Democrats.
“The incident is in the past,” Curry said, “but the blowback has not.” Curry said that the Chicago Republican Party has not held a meeting since the Summer of 2010 and fundraising has been zero. “There were no winners,” he continued, “scome of the dvisive people are on the ballot. I don’t see these people as a positive force for the party.”
In fact, Curry’s opponent, Steve Boulton, was one of those that sided with Gerson and accused Curry and others of secretly being Democrats and protecting Rose against legitimate accusations. Curry refused to speculate on why Boulton is challenging him, “I don’t know what his interest is in this race,” but continuing, “he filed to run in the last day.”
Curry has repeatedly dismissed any accusation that he is sympathetic to Democrats, saying that once he supported a Democrat in a race where no Republican was running, Ted Matlak for 32nd Ward Alderman in 1999, and continuing, “I’ve been involved in Republican politics since the 1970’s.” Curry points out that the 32nd Ward is regularly in the top ten of the fifty wards in terms of Republican turnout.
While Curry believes that such scurrilous accusations only contribute to the divisiveness that he believes is counter productive and hurts the party, he’s not the only one that will face accusations of being a secret Democrat during this campaign. Catherina Wojtowicz, a Tea Party organizer and candidate for Committeeman in 19, is leveling a similar charge against her Republican opponent, Jim Parrilli. In a recent email to supporters, Wojtowicz said this, “One such committeeman is 19th ward GOP Committeeman Jim Parrilli, friend and financial contributor to some of the biggest names in the Cook County Democratic Party! The GOP committeeman to one of the biggest republican enclaves in the city is a democrat bank roller. Awesome, huh?”
Republican insiders believe that if only 23% of the City of Chicago went Republican, then the state would turn Red. Curry thinks that is very doable, “I think that’s very doable. Not in one cycle,” continuing, “If the party were to deploy people to do target outreach.”
Welles Park Bulldog is currently working with Curry’s opponent, Steve Boulton, to set up an interview and hopes to bring you that soon.