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HomeIllinois NewsIt’s Time for the Direct Election of State Central Committeeman in Illinois,...

It’s Time for the Direct Election of State Central Committeeman in Illinois, Eliminating Appointments and Favoritism



By Illinois Review

The Republican State Central Committee (SSC) is the governing board of the Republican Party of Illinois. It’s also an unelected position in the traditional sense, leaving SSC members beholden to the chosen few that elect them, rather than to the people they will serve.

The Bylaws of the Illinois Republican Party state that state central committee members are elected in an internal election by an “elected precinct committeeman who is present at a county convention, and shall cast their vote for State Central Committeeman.”

The precinct committeemen electing SSC members are elected by the people they serve, but SSC members, who are the governing board of the Republican Party of Illinois, are elected in an internal process and voted in by party insiders – leaving SSC members accountable to no one.

There are 17 SSC members representing the 17 congressional districts in Illinois, who can serve no more than eight years.

Illinois Review believes this “selection” process needs to change.

In 2011, a bipartisan group of legislators in the 94th Illinois General Assembly proposed legislation to change the method by which SSC members are elected, and instead require them to run in a Primary Election – allowing the people they will serve in a congressional district to elect them instead of an election of political insiders during a county convention.

The bill had fourteen bipartisan sponsors in the Senate and four bipartisan sponsors in the House. The legislation was referred to the House Rules Committee, but it didn’t go any further – indicating an apparent block by then Democrat House Speaker Michael Madigan at former GOP leader and State Rep. Jim Durkin’s behest, despite bipartisan support.

But with Speaker Madigan and Durkin now gone, it’s time for the Illinois General Assembly to re-introduce this legislation – and if history is any indication, this too should have bipartisan support.

With a position as important as a State Central Committeeman, it’s not only appropriate, but necessary to ensure that their values reflect the people they serve, instead of the party insiders who elect them.

Sunlight is always the best disinfectant in politics, and this will certainly represent a good start.

Illinois Review
Illinois Review
Founded in 2005, Illinois Review is the leading perspective and source of conservative news, opinion and information in Illinois. Follow Illinois Review on X at @IllinoisReview.


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  1. No.

    While the current process for electing Republican state central committeepersons has its flaws, there is something the article left out of its coverage.

    The Illinois Republican Party Bylaws also states to be a Republican state central committeeperson, a prospective candidate qualifications require more vetting then a popularly elected state central committeeperson:

    “No individual shall be eligible to serve as a member of the State Central Committee unless the individual has voted in the Republican Primary Election in each of the three (3) most recent General Primary Elections held in the State of Illinois as evidenced by the individual having requested a Republican ballot according to the official voting records of the election jurisdiction in which the individual resides. This General
    Primary Election voting requirement shall not apply to an election in which an individual: (a) who did not vote and can demonstrate they were on active military duty at the time of the election, (b) was not of legal
    voting age at the time of the election, or (c) was not a resident of the State of Illinois at the time of the General Primary Election and the individual can show proof of voting Republican in the General Primary
    Election of the State in which the individual previously resided.”

    Last year, many Republican state central committeepersons where denied the opportunity to run at the Republican county conventions because they could not prove they had voted in the 3 most recent Republican primaries in even-numbered years (2018, 2020 & 2022).

    Under Illinois’ open primary system, any candidate for political party office could run as a Republican candidate WITHOUT having proven they had voted in the most recent three Republican primaries in the General Primary Elections (local primaries/caucus and special elections do not count).

    This is a safeguard to prevent people from running for the governing board of the Republican state central committee without a proven voting history evidenced by a voting record. It has flaws, including a risk for an out-of-state carpetbagger moving into Illinois can serve on the Republican state central committee. It should be noted, unless one meets the exceptions, the current Bylaws requires a person to start their clock over in the event they move from one Illinois local election authority to another.

    Since the county convention election of Republican state central committeepersons was started back in the 1980s, the election every four years has had its controversies, which have been resolved. For example, the elected county Republican chairmen had the power to cast the weighted votes of all vacant precincts (precincts without an elected Republican precinct committeeperson) for the candidate of their choice. That problem was resolved over a decade ago with this provision of the Bylaws:

    “The ‘weighted vote’ for vacant precincts, and precincts not represented at the county conventions by elected precinct committeemen, shall be allocated to each candidate for State Central Committeeman based on the proportion of weighted votes the candidate(s) received from the elected precinct committeemen present at that county convention.”

    There’s nothing wrong with the current system, and Republicans reverting back to the popular election of Republican state central committeepersons will create more problems then it solves. The Republican state central committeeperson also has term limits and cannot serve for more than two consecutive four-year terms.

    Here’s a better provision to enact into law: Popular election of Republican county chairs for 4-year terms, elected during the presidential primary election in presidential election years.

    Currently, there is no requirement for county Republican chairs elected every 2 years by Republican precinct committeepersons to have voted in the most recent 3 statewide regular Republican primary elections, but Republican primary voters can decide who’s the best. Given the number of Illinois General Assembly vacancies county party chairs outside of Cook County usually fill, direct accountability to primary voters should be in order. Within Cook County, Chicago ward committeepersons and suburban Cook County township committeepersons are already elected by the voters every four years.

    One must respect the grassroots, and I like most grassroots volunteers started in the trenches (in my case during the 1996 election cycle). I’ve heard the kinds of suggestions the Illinois Review suggested off-and-on over the years.

    Time overdue for all grassroots volunteers to mobilize more Republican precinct committeepersons, and build a real grassroots network to elect members of the Republican state central committee the next time each member is up for election, during the 2026 election cycle at the county conventions that year.

    • We are not proposing removing the eligibility requirements. We agree strongly with you that to be eligible for the SCC, a candidate must have pulled Republican ballots in the most recent 3 statewide regular primaries. Not meeting this would be grounds for a successful challenge. Eligible candidates then proceed to an election by the people, just as we currently handle committeemen.

      • I must respectfully disagree concerning the ability to continue the eligibility requirements of the state Republican Bylaws if state central committeepersons return to popular election by primary voters.

        Under Illinois’ open primary law, the State Board of Elections cannot enforce a “bonafide Republican requirement” as outlined in the state party’s Bylaws.

        The state party can enforce their bonafide Republican requirement to certify a Republican state central committeeperson candidate for the county convention ballot.

        Illinois does not have the oversight other state parties do, like in Tennessee and the TN-05 Republican primary ballot controversy last year which prevented Robby Starbuck from being on the ballot for an open, safe Republican seat in Congress.

        Details here from The Tennessean of the final ruling on Starbuck can be viewed here:


        Hope this helps.

        • Good points, Mr. Lopez. We would need a bill to provide for direct election of the SCC members, and we would insist that the open primary law be revisited as part of that legislative process. Thank you for your comments.

  2. Anyone who thinks the current system of SCC member selection is “fine” or is “working” hasn’t been paying attention, or is just plain clueless. Any serious person can see it’s been a huge failure. Direct elections never should have been taken away in the first place back in the 1980s. It was only done for the Illinois Republican Party, by selfish Republican bosses.

    I explained all this a few weeks ago in a piece I wrote. It’s linked in the comment below — which I tried to post here a couple of weeks ago. I hope you IR folks will see fit to approve the comment this time so that it shows up here, especially since it’s all true and sets the record straight on some things:

    I would have referenced my recent piece as I strongly suspect that’s where you got the idea for your piece: https://dougelstonibendahl.substack.com/p/do-this-illinois-gop-or-just-shut. But that’s fine. If we’re finally going to accomplish this reform we need a lot of people working together. Also, I can correct some facts for you. Yes, it’s true direct elections can be restored by changing the law. I support and have supported any method of getting it done. I don’t believe changing the law is the best way however. But I’ve supported that method anyway. We actually made 2 serious attempts to do so in Springfield. The first year was actually 2009 and the bill was SB600. Then senator Chris Lauzen led the effort in the senate to unanimous passage. When it went over to the House it was stonewalled by then minority leader Tom Cross (aka Tom Double Cross) and state rep Skip Saviano (who was also on the SCC at the time — and last year was a Richard Irvin endorser). Jim Durkin was a nobody then. Didn’t figure into the mix at all as you suggested. (Durkin didn’t even become minority leader until 2013.) And the Dems had no problem with the bill. Mike Madigan and other Dems told me personally they would vote for the bill. And yes I absolutely believed them. They were not going to be hypocrites as they kept direct elections for their SCC. So they certainly were not going to stand in the way of restoring democracy for Republicans. But since it was a bill that would only impact the R party they needed Rs in the House to give the green light. You can imagine the destructive games that could be played if a party in the majority jammed through laws impacting the internal functioning of the other party without their consent. SB600 never got a floor vote in the House. Lauzen later again led the same bill to unanimous passage in the state senate in a subsequent session (this time it was numbered SB35). But again it was stonewalled in the House by Cross and Saviano. So full blame on Republican House members. The Dems, for all of their other problems, can be given no blame for this one. The good news is, and as I explained in my article, we need not change the law. Current law already allows us to restore direct elections on our own. We can do it at a state convention. Nothing would be more energizing. I will continue to push that effort and I invite everyone to join me. Again, my article linked above explains how it would work.