Contest for McHenry Co. GOP chair may get heated

Published: 1/22/2008 12:10 AM

Ending months of speculation about his plans, state Rep. Mike Tryon said Monday he will seek the chairmanship of the McHenry County Republican Party.

Tryon, the popular former McHenry County Board chairman, has been speaking with party leaders in recent days about his chances of winning the local GOP's top post and whether he could lead the party the way he sees fit.

"I'm trying to see what kind of support I'd have -- not just to be elected chairman, but to be able to operate effectively as chairman," Tryon said. "That support will be necessary, because it's not going to be a one-man job."

Tryon, seeking his third term in the state legislature in November, said he hopes to bring the party back to its fundamental principles of free markets and individual freedom.

"I have a plan and I will be sharing that plan with the committee members," he said. "It's a positive plan about getting back to the fundamentals of the Republican movement."

But before he implements that plan, Tryon might first have to fend off a potentially stiff challenge from longtime party insider Rick Mack.

Mack may not have Tryon's name recognition, but as the party's vice chairman for the last 10 years he has had time to forge relationships with the precinct committeemen who will elect the new chairman at the party's March 5 convention.

Mack praised Tryon Monday, but said he is considering his own run for party chairman.

"I see myself as a good consensus builder," Mack said.

At stake is leadership of a party that, while perhaps not the omnipotent force it was 15 years ago, still dominates the local political scene.

Both hopefuls say among their first orders of business as chairman would be to address the internal bitterness that has emerged in recent months, mostly over the primary contest for state's attorney.

Outgoing party chairman Bill LeFew has been an ardent supporter of Dan Regna, who is challenging incumbent Louis Bianchi for the party's nomination.

If LeFew's public support for Regna rankled some party members, his decision to anonymously mail 900 Republicans a copy of a Daily Herald column critical of the incumbent infuriated them.

Tryon and Mack said Monday they do not believe a party chairman should publicly endorse in a primary.

"It's politics, but not the kind of politics I'd like to see," said Tryon, who is LeFew's choice for his successor.

Mack said he backs a new set of party by-laws that would bar a chairman from publicly endorsing one Republican over another.

"I think that's an important step in bringing everyone back together," he said.