The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Friday, June 25, 2004  

Republicans Turn to Former Cosmetics Executive

Bill Pascoe, spokesman for U.S. Senate candidate Jack Ryan, Republican of Illinois, says his boss “is in the race to stay,” but anyone with half a brain knows that’s not the case.

The bitter truth is laid out meticulously in today’s Chicago Tribune by reporters Rick Pearson and Rudolph Bush (“With Successor in Mind, GOP Plots Ryan’s Exit”):

Anticipating a quick end to Jack Ryan’s candidacy for the U.S. Senate, state Republican leaders on Thursday began looking ahead to replace him on the November ballot, with former State Board of Education Chairman Ron Gidwitz emerging as the leading contender, several GOP sources said.

Ryan is not without his backers, including retiring U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.), but it appears the Republican Party’s search for a new candidate has Ryan’s consent. The Tribune reports:

Meanwhile, GOP sources in Washington said Ryan’s campaign had been seeking advice on a strategy for exiting the race as the Republican members of Illinois’ House delegation, led by Speaker Dennis Hastert of Yorkville, [Ill.,] met behind closed doors and agreed unanimously that Ryan should drop out.

Ryan has little support among party regulars in Washington. According to the Tribune, the Illinois Republican delegation in the House of Representatives, at a meeting convened by Rep. Hastert, agreed Ryan should drop out of the race.

Meanwhile, the natives, or at least the locals, are getting restless:

On Thursday, GOP county chairmen across the state added their complaints about Ryan.

“It’s repulsive and alien for people in southern Illinois,” Richard Stubblefield of Mount Vernon, the Jefferson County GOP chairman. . . . “It’s time to move on. It’s time to have another candidate.”

Even more outspoken was state Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale), who also is GOP chairman in DuPage County, long regarded as the state’s most Republican county.

“Only in the Land of Oz would people think that Jack Ryan can beat Barack Obama after this week’s activity,” Dillard said, referring to the Democratic contender for the Senate post.

Ultimately, the matter lies in Ryan’s hands. According to the Tribune, Ryan, who won the Republican Party nomination in March, cannot be forced off the ballot. “But party leaders said privately that Ryan, should he continue to run, would have to spend heavily from his own substantial bank account because fundraising would dry up,” the paper reports.

If Ryan withdraws, the Illinois Republican State Central Committee will fill the vacancy. But with whom? The Tribune reports former governors Jim Edgar and James R. Thompson and current state Supreme Court Justice Bob Thomas have taken their names out of consideration, and Illinois Republican Party Chairman Judy Baar Topinka “has thus far shown no interest.”

Gidwitz, the leading contender to replace Ryan, is a member of the State Board of Education and previously ran Helene Curtis Industries, a family business. “Gidwitz is wealthy and could use his own money to try to mount a late-starting Senate contest,” the Tribune reporters observe.

Finally, the Tribune reports “State GOP leaders stressed that any replacement candidate would have to be thoroughly vetted to avoid any new embarrassments to the GOP.”

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