04/27/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Battle to Save the Illinois Republican Party has Unlikely Foes

State Sen. Chris Lauzen is in a fight, unbelievably, to give Republican voters the right to directly pick their own leaders on the party's "Board of Directors," the State Central Committee.

I say unbelievably because the biggest foes of changing the existing law which allows Republican committeemen in the 19 Illinois Congressional Districts to select the State Central Committeemen and Committeewomen are some of the Republican Party's own leaders, like state GOP chief Andrew McKenna.

Lauzen has introduced Senate Bill 600 to change the practice and let Republicans vote directly for the State Central Committeeman and State Central Committeewoman in each of the state's 19 Congressional Districts. The two posts are equal and have given women equal voice in state politics. Democrats already directly vote for their counterparts. It's only the Republican voters who are denied that right.

Former Gov. Jim Thompson, who didn't blink at donating his firm's legal services to help his corrupt pal former Gov. George Ryan, took away the right of Republican voters to select their leaders in 1988 in a move to consolidate his own power. If you had to trace the total collapse of the Illinois Republican Party to any single move or person, it would be to that date and to that former governor.

"If everything were going fine in the Republican party, would say we have other things to take care of. But we have been losing so many campaigns. We're in the super minority in both chambers of the legislature, for practical purposes. We don't have one of the executive branch officers in the state of Illinois," Lauzen explained during an interview on RadioChicagoland on WJJG 1530 AM Monday.

"We have problems in Illinois because the checks and balances of the two-party system no longer exist. And we have to believe in the founding principles that the people are in charge, not the politicians, and one-person and one vote, or we don't."

Now, Sen. Lauzen and Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno are planning to push for the adoption of a bill that would restore the right of Republican voters, taken away by Thompson in 1988, to directly elect the State Central Committeemen and State Central Committee Women (co-equals in a system that has empowered woman leadership in Illinois) and McKenna has threatened to file a lawsuit if the bill is passed.

McKenna, the Republican Party chief, wants to prevent Republican voters from deciding who should represent the party? No wonder the Illinois Republican party is an absolute mess. McKenna has been arguing that the state voters should get the right to elect the U.S. Senator, demanding that the seat held by the controversy-plagued Roland Burris should be decided in a special election. Give the voters a voice, he says. But when it comes to giving Republicans a voice in who should be leading their party, he feels differently.

Citing McKenna's opposition to SB600, Lauzen said, "The centralized leadership of the Republican Party has really come out very hard against this. I am surprised with all the problems that they have. All we are talking about is returning to the great traditions of this country where in the founding document of the Declaration of Independence it says the just powers of the government are derived through the consent of the governed. That is the many people, not the few. It starts out as We the people not we the politicians."

Lauzen added, "McKenna says 'special election, special election' when it comes to Roland Burris. But when it comes to the board of directors of the Republican People, we can't elect them by the people. On a good day, it is irony. On a bad day is just hypocrisy."

He called McKenna's threatened lawsuit "a sign of desperation. We want our vote back. This is about reform in Illinois. If we want better government we need better candidates coming from the grassroots. We need to reconnect the voters and make this party stronger."

Listen to Lauzen's podcast interview from Radio Chicagoland last Monday on WJJG 1530 AM Radio by clicking here. Get more information at Lauzen's web site at