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Daniels, Pankau eye county chairman's seat
By Robert Sanchez | Daily Herald Staff

Carole Pankau


Lee Daniels


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Published: 6/12/2009 12:00 AM

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Former Illinois House Speaker Lee Daniels and state Sen. Carole Pankau are among a growing number of DuPage County Republicans considering a run for the county board chairman seat.

Since Chairman Robert Schillerstrom announced he may seek the Republican nomination for governor in 2010, the list of names mentioned as possible GOP chairman candidates has grown to include state Sen. Dan Cronin and no fewer than six county board members.

Pankau confirmed Thursday she is "seriously considering" whether she wants to seek the job.

"I've started talking to people and we'll see how long it takes," said Pankau, an Itasca Republican who has served four years as a state senator, 12 years as a state representative and eight years as a county board member.

"This will not be an easy decision," she said. "But I am starting to do the spade work now to see whether it's something that I feel I could make a quality contribution to."

Meanwhile, Addison Township GOP Chairman Pat Durante said a number of people are encouraging Daniels to come out of political retirement and enter the race.

"If anybody is capable of running, let's face it, he's certainly capable," said Durante, a longtime Daniels ally.

While a poll conducted this week shows Daniels still has positive name recognition among county voters, Durante said he believes it's unlikely he'll run.

"He's flattered," Durante said. "It sparks an interest. Everything is still up in the air. But if I had to bet, I would say probably not."

The list of county board members who have had discussions about replacing Schillerstrom includes Pat O'Shea, Brien Sheahan, Jerry "JR" McBride, Debra Olson, Jim Zay and Paul Fichtner. Olson is one of the few who said she may run even if Schillerstrom abandons his gubernatorial plans and seeks re-election in DuPage.

Cronin said the possibility of an open county board chairman seat is generating a lot of interest.

"Everybody knows that Bob is moving on and he seems very intent on running for governor," Cronin said. "So there's going be a vacancy there and these things don't happen very often. So everybody needs to kind of take stock of where they are in their lives and whether they're up to the challenge."

While he won't make a final decision until around August - when petitions need to be circulated - Cronin said he believes "there's a wonderful opportunity at the county."

"There's a lot of need to sort of reorganize and redefine county government," the Elmhurst Republican said. "I think there is an opportunity to do good there."