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Del Mar easily retains Cook GOP chairmanship

by Steve Zalusky, Daily Herald

While waiters shouted "Oopa" over flaming dishes in another area of Chicago's Parthenon Restaurant, Cook County Republicans re-elected their chairman, hoping to quench the fires of party division.

Aaron Del Mar easily maintained hold of his post as chairman of the Cook County Republican Party, receiving a solid endorsement from committeemen during Wednesday night's election.

The Palatine Township Republican committeeman received 64.29 percent of the vote with 102,084 votes. His opponent -- challenger Chris Cleveland, Chicago GOP vice chairman -- received 56,691 votes, or 35.71 percent.

"I was very happy with the turnout," said Del Mar, who has received criticism for empty ballot spots and weak fundraising. "I look forward to working with all of my fellow Republicans to get Bruce Rauner elected in November."

His goals for the next term, he said, include not only electing a new governor but also raising money and attracting more well-rounded, diligent and educated candidates.

"I'm disappointed, but now it's time for everybody to pull together," Cleveland said. "We have a mission. We need to elect Bruce Rauner, and we're all going to be working on that very hard."

As for what he would like to see from Del Mar, "I'd like to see him pull the whole party together, so that we're all working toward a single goal."

The result disappointed Wheeling Township Republican Committeeman Ruth O'Connell.

"I think Chris Cleveland would have done a wonderful job," she said. "I think he has proved himself with what he has done in the city."

"I think we need a change," she said. "He (Cleveland) is a good leader. He's been very effective in the city of Chicago filling the ticket and getting the slots filled." She said he has shown an ability to raise money and is "not as controversial as Aaron is."

Scott Davis, 44th Ward Republican committeeman in Chicago, expressed relief.

"I'm glad it's finally here," he said. "This has been a fierce battle between the two. They're both very qualified for the position. One has the support of our governor nominee. I think that's very important. I'm just hoping that we can unify after tonight."

Del Mar prevailed in more than one way. An amendment to change the Cook County Republican Central Committee bylaws, aimed at Del Mar's power, failed 56.3 percent to 43.6, 55,146 to 42,714.

The amendment would have taken away the chairman's authority to remove an appointed township or ward committeeman. According to the amendment, the authority "has been used in an arbitrary and self-serving manner."

Char Foss-Eggemann, the new Maine Township Republican committeeman who also voted for Cleveland, said he thought the amendment made sense.

"I think it makes sense," he said. "I think if you appoint and unappoint on a whim, then there is no stability and it makes for more game playing."

"I think that it's necessary," said Northfield Township Deputy Committeeman Jonathan Greenburg. "If we're going to be serious about reforming Illinois, we need to start with ourselves."

However, Del Mar said, "I think that the chairman should have as much strength as possible, being the leader of the party."

"You don't know how well someone is going to do," he said, "and if they don't do a very diligent job, you should have the ability to remove them."

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