Illinois Republican Party Chairman Andy McKenna abruptly resigned Thursday.
"I reach this decision recognizing that I do not intend to seek re-election as Party Chairman in April, therefore, believing now is the best time to select our next leader who will carry us to victory in 2010," McKenna said in a statement announcing the move.
Though the state party has been wracked by internal divisions and electoral losses, Mckenna's announcement was still seen as a surprise. Capitol Fax's Rich Miller reports that McKenna, a 2004 candidate in the Republican U.S. Senate primary who abandoned plans for another run in 2010 when U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk declared, could be considering running for elected office.
McKenna's full statement:
"Today I informed our State Central Committee that I am stepping aside as Chairman of the Illinois Republican Party.
"I leave this role secure in the fact that the Party has raised more than $16 million throughout the last four years and is building solid cash flow which will support our efforts leading into the next election.
"I am confident that the grassroots organizations we built throughout the last four years are poised to deliver multiple statewide victories in 2010.
"I reach this decision recognizing that I do not intend to seek re-election as Party Chairman in April, therefore, believing now is the best time to select our next leader who will carry us to victory in 2010.
"Serving as Chairman for nearly five years has been an honor and I am proud of the work we have accomplished in building our grassroots through the County Chairman's Association, electing strong leaders like Peter Roskam and securing Mark Kirk as our next U.S. Senate Candidate.
"I have great confidence in acting-Chairman Bobbie Peterson and I look forward to working with all Party leaders to elect Republicans up and down the ballot in 2010."
UPDATE: Party leaders wasted little time replacing McKenna, voting to install lawyer and former federal prosecutor Pat Brady as the new Illinois GOP chairman.
The 48-year-old Brady, of St. Charles, is the state's Republican national committeeman and was a strong backer of John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign and RNC head Michael Steele, according to Crain's political columnist Greg Hinz.
Brady said fundraising will be his first priority, but Hinz notes that his ultimate goal will have to be reversing the GOP's dismal fortunes at the polls:
Whatever happens now, Mr. Brady will have lots to do. The party currently holds none of Illinois' statewide elective posts, is a minority in the state House and Senate, has lost both U.S. Senate seats to Democrats and controls only seven the state's 19 seats in the U.S. House.