Saturday, September 17, 2005
Conservative Summit Wowed by Brady
State Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) cut through his opponents strength like a hot knife through butter and won the Conservative Summit approval for governor easily today, triumphing over one who has been purportedly the right-wings sentimental favorite, Jim Oberweis.
The day-long meeting at the Inverness country club in Mundelein was the most thoughtful session conservatives put in since 1996 when they endorsed then State Rep. Al Salvi, who today as a wealthy personal injury attorney hosted the session (and who took no part in discussion over the candidates). The day began with a presentation by Brady which, even his supporters acknowledged, wasnt his best. But the tall youthful candidates JFK handsomeness, his ability to conduct a conversation with the group rather than lecture them, his 12,000-watt smile and his stunning self-confidence plus his thorough espousal of conservative social and economic issues, easily convinced the group. Attending the conference were leaders of key coalition groups that form the conservative base: right-to-lifers, gun rights enthusiasts and libertarians, a cross section of the right-wing base. The initial tally by secret ballot read Brady 19, Oberweis 10, Rauschenberger 6 and Birkett 1. Because Joseph Morris, a co-convener, said the rules required 2/3rds support for endorsement, a second ballot was taken giving Brady 22, enough for endorsement. Then the group cast a voice vote in support of a unified ticket, endorsing Brady for governor, Joe Birkett,, Du Page states attorney, for attorney general, Jim Oberweis, Aurora dairy owner and stock analyst for secretary of state and State Sen. Steve Rauschenberger for either treasurer or comptroller.
Speaking to the group were, in addition to Brady, Oberweis, Rauschenberger, and Birkett. Former governor Jim Edgar, Charleston, was invited but declined, sending a letter that explained he has not yet made up his mind to run. Chicago businessman and philanthropist Ron Gidwitz and State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka were not invited since their views on social policy are not consonant with the conservatives. The battle, clearly, was between Brady and Oberweis and in a sometimes heated debate, advocates for all the candidates weighed in.
A key argument for Brady centered on Bradys Irish Catholicism as a key factor in wooing residual Reagan Democrats from the south suburbs of Cook county. A Birkett supporter responded that the prosecutor was also an Irish Catholic but it didnt dent the crowd which was clearly taken with Bradys physical attractiveness. Oberweis pledge to cut taxes was a great factor in his winning as many votes as he did but the negatives brought up by the group centered on his reference to pro-lifers as akin to members of the Taliban, a derogatory reference he made in an earlier campaign for the U.S. Senate and which he has steadily disavowed since. Perhaps this was not as determinative a factor as the fear, expressed by one Hispanic attendee, that by a loosely-focused campaign against illegal immigration, Oberweis certified that he had no chance to get any chunk of the Hispanic vote.
The argument centered for a time on the importance of a gubernatorial candidate being a good debater since a central issue is sure to be corruption. The group was reminded that there is a possibility of Gov. Blagojevichs being indicted, that he might determine it is not to his advantage to run for reelection and that Lisa Madigan could well be thrust to the forefront of a reform ticket. The rationale for this argument was that Birkett, who did surprisingly well against her as attorney general, would be best able to play the role of the prosecutor against either Blagojevich or Madigan. This possibility cut no ice with the group. When the complaint was voiced that it was picking just another pretty face (that of the charismatic Brady), the group determined Brady has the kind of appeal and devastating charisma to get elected.
Two central arguments raged over Rauschenberger. When he made his presentation he stressed his pro-life record but seemed to dismiss his vote in behalf of state policy supporting abortifacients. He declared that this vote was one of several thousands I have cast. Some members of the Summit used that statement to proclaim that he did not recognize the importance of the drug which to pro-lifers is akin to abortion. Another dealt with his having been endorsed for reelection as a state senator by a gay-rights group which Rauschenberger explained as having stemmed from his support of HI-AIDS legislation but which explanation was viewed by some members of the Summit with some suspicion. Oberweis was criticized as mistake-prone and Birkett as unable to raise necessary funds by reason of the fact that he is still some $600,000 or so in debt from his last campaign. The Rolando Cruz trial was cited by one as symptomatic of a potential lack of support from Hispanics.