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Many Republican Candidates Left Out in the Cold by GOP

Oct. 21, 2008 – When Steve Miller moved to Chicago eight years ago, he never thought of getting directly involved with the Republican Party. The only time he participated in an event for the GOP was at age 10, when his mother took him and his sister to see Ronald Reagan at the 1980 GOP National Convention in Detroit, his hometown.

Then, in early spring 2008, he received a call from a friend asking him if he was interested in running for the U.S. House of Representatives under the Republican Party's flag. Miller accepted.

And then he was left to do the job on his own.

"I am so fed up with this party," said Miller, who is running for Congress in Illinois' 7th district against incumbent Democrat Danny K. Davis.

 Local GOP organizations such as the Chicago and Cook County Republican Parties set aside ambitions of winning local Congressional elections a long time ago. Yet the GOP keeps filling the otherwise empty ballot spots for Congress knowing it will not support its own candidates.

"All I really asked for were volunteers to help me with my campaign," said Miller, who acknowledged that no one from the party had promised him any kind of financial or campaign support.

Like Miller, many local Republican candidates have little or no previous political experience. Miller has run his campaign on his own and said he has raised roughly $2,000. Davis, who first won the 7th district in 1996, has raised $310,000, according to the Federal Election Commission.

"The Republican Party doesn't exist in Chicago, it abandoned the city a long time ago," said Paul Green, Arthur Rubloff Professor of Policy Studies at Roosevelt University. "It has no money, no organization. The names of Republican candidates appear on ballots just for pride." 

In many cases the candidates whose names will be on the Nov. 4 ballots have been called by friends involved with the GOP. Miller was asked to run for the Republican Party by Thomas Swiss, Republican committeeman for the 27th ward.

"I explicitly told Steve that no support would come from the party," said Swiss, who has known Miller for five years.

Swiss said there are "many non competitive races in Chicago," and that the State Republican Party "sits down and decides on a map of who is deserving of their support." But Swiss also said the Republicans "have a plan," and will start focusing on winning the next gubernatorial race in 2010.

Miller is not the only Republican candidate in Chicago going it alone.

"I haven't had any support from State Republicans," said Michael B. Younan, who is currently running for the first time for Illinois' 9th District, which includes Chicago's North Side neighborhoods, Evanston, Skokie and Des Plaines. "But this is what I expected from these guys."

Younan has been able to raise about $50,000 on his own, which will be mostly invested in TV time and bus advertisements.

Younan feels confident he will steal many votes from his incumbent Democratic opponent Jan Schakowsky. She has kept her seat for the past ten years and has raised more than $1.1 million just this year, according to the Federal Election Commission. Younan criticizes the Republican Party for not investing in a district that could someday turn out to be favorable for GOP candidates.

"They end up kicking themselves in the butt," he said.

Republican candidates in southern Chicago districts have also complained about the Party's lack of support.

"I'm disappointed in the party," said Tonia Members, wife and campaign manager for 1st District candidate Antoine Members. "To me they seem satisfied with the crumbs left from the Democrats," she said. Antoine Members has been able to raise $53,000 on his own.

One of the few African-American representatives at this year's Republican Party Convention held in St. Paul, Members received negative press coverage in two separate articles by Chicago Sun-Times' columnist Michael Sneed after complaining about his party's lack of support. On Sept. 4, Sneed reported Members saying he was not getting any funding promises and would think about leaving the Republican Party after he returned from the convention.

Another candidate who hasn't heard from the Republican Party is Anthony Williams, who is running for the first time as a Republican in the 2nd District. Unlike Members or Miller, Williams has past experience as a candidate for Congress with both the Libertarian and Democratic parties.

"They all work the same way," he said. "They are all short-sighted." Williams is running against incumbent Jesse L. Jackson, Jr.

The Chicago Young Republicans have been very active this year, seen campaigning for Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) presidential race on several major TV networks, but have never actively campaigned for local candidates for Congress.

"We do cover local candidates," said Jeremy Rose, political director for Chicago Young Republicans, "but this is an election year and we're focusing on the national race."

The Chicago Young Republicans' goal, said Rose, is to recruit new volunteers. Membership has risen by 50 percent in the last few months.

"It's a very American way of doing things," said Massie Ritsch, communications director at the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-profit research group that tracks the flow of money in political campaigns. "Parties are very pragmatic."

"Local parties won't see much money flowing if there isn't much chance of winning in a certain area," said Ritsch. "In the U.S., the responsibility and burden of the campaign is entirely on the candidate."

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  1. Curtis Lawrence said, Tue Oct 21 13:04:22 UTC 2008:

    Who would have thunk a reporter could find a story about the Chicago and Cook County Republican Party in the heart of Obamaville. Good example of digging for a good story.

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