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Oberweis hoping to end GOP infighting in new role
By James Fuller | Daily Herald Staff

Jim Oberweis


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Published: 3/6/2010 12:00 AM

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When Jim Oberweis lost what many people considered a Republican seat to Democrat Bill Foster in 2008, the dairy magnate never believed he didn't have the backing of local Republicans. In his eyes, he'd beaten state Sen. Chris Lauzen in the primary and never finished worse than second in any election.

Now Oberweis will put that belief and positive attitude to work and help run the Illinois Republican Party after 14th District Republicans elected him to be their new State Central Committeeman this week.

Oberweis said one of his first steps is making sure the Republican Party doesn't repeat the mistakes he's been part of in his own campaigns.

"I won a primary over a sitting state senator, but unfortunately it was a bruising primary," Oberweis said of the campaign that was, at times, negative and unpleasant. "Both of us made mistakes. I wouldn't repeat those mistakes. I wish it hadn't happened, but it did. And it kept the party from being unified."

Oberweis, of Sugar Grove, said it's important for the party to rally behind all its candidates if there's any chance for the GOP to win leadership positions in the state. That includes Republicans' support of Mark Kirk, the congressman from the 10th District, even if they believe he's more moderate than conservative GOP voters would like.

"Unquestionably, I'm a fiscal conservative," Oberweis said. "I don't think anybody has a stronger fiscal conservative record than I do. But we do have some more moderates like Mark Kirk. We have to support our Republican candidates. From a Republican view, the alternative would be even worse. And I worry there are some that would see a good Republican lose because they disagree with some of his views."

That doesn't mean some disagreement isn't a good thing. Indeed, Oberweis has been known to break with some party leaders on internal matters, including on a state Senate bill, SB 600, on the way Republicans elect committeemen. Oberweis said the party must end the practice of allowing county party chairmen to cast votes on behalf of precincts that lack a committeeman. He's also in favor of term limits for both committeemen and politicians.

"We need more turnover to get people more involved," Oberweis said. "One of the great failings we've had is the leadership of the party has tended to circle the wagons and get the same people elected over and over again. SB 600 would be a definite improvement over that current system. And I think the movement in that direction was partly because of anger over the way the central committee has handled things in the past, such as the Alan Keyes fiasco."

Oberweis said those types of disagreements are OK. But when it comes to elections, the party should remain neutral during the primaries and then campaign hard for whoever comes out as the winner.

"That's fine if people disagree, if they stand up and express their views," Oberweis said. "I want people to stand up with different ideas, different party recommendations. What I don't want to see is personal attacks on each other. 'That guys legs are too short,' or '... He did something to me eight years ago.' We don't need that.

"Hopefully, we'll start fighting with the Democrats and not fighting with each other."