11/21/2011 06:33 pm ET Updated Jan 21, 2012

Help Govern the GOP: Run for Precinct Committeeman

"We don't want nobody nobody sent." That infamous snub was directed at a young Abner Mikva when he stopped by a Chicago ward office looking to volunteer for the Democrats in the 1948 election. Mikva of course wasn't deterred and went on to a distinguished career at the highest levels in all three branches of government.

The suspicious, unwelcoming attitude Mikva encountered over six decades ago is usually associated with Democratic ward bosses and the old Chicago machine.

Republicans shouldn't get too smug however. Consider that in 2010 no Republican candidate even bothered to run for Republican precinct committeeman in 51 percent of the 6,705 positions available across Illinois. That was the total number of precincts in the state's 101 counties other than Cook. No political party elects precinct committeemen in Cook, which has a unique legal structure. (Democrats and Republicans will instead each elect ward committeemen in Chicago's 50 wards in 2012.)

The Illinois GOP has too often been less than welcoming to new activists and we've seen the results at election time. Winnable races are lost when Republicans don't begin to match the boots-on-the-ground fielded by the Democrats and their union allies.

Precinct committeeman is an all-volunteer office, but a crucial one. Precinct committeemen are the party's frontline ambassadors. She or he will be the only party official many voters ever meet in person.

Candidates for precinct committeeman need only 10 valid petition signatures from registered voters within the precinct to get on the March 20 primary ballot. The close-of-business on Monday, December 5 is the deadline to file those petitions with the county clerk.

We've pulled back the curtain and put all of the information and required forms online at In a state as "blue" as Illinois, it's time Republicans lost the Chicago boss attitude.