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GOP bosses sit down with Walsh, but don't ask him to step aside
By Joseph Ryan and Russell Lissau | Daily Herald Staff

Joe Walsh


Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

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Published: 5/6/2010 12:05 AM

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With controversy continuing to muddle Republican Joe Walsh's run for Congress, party leaders held a two-hour sit-down recently with the candidate to vet his viability.

"Obviously there are issues that have been raised," said Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady of the Tuesday meeting. "We had a discussion about them. He is our nominee and we support him."

The meeting in Libertyville included Brady, the party's executive director and party bosses from Lake and Cook counties, which cover the 8th District that Walsh hopes to represent.

Walsh campaign manager Nick Provenzano described the meeting as "a good opportunity to sit in front of these guys and talk about the campaign."

The call for a sit-down came after two top Walsh staffers resigned Sunday and called the media in to raise questions about the candidate's qualifications and history.

It was just the latest unwanted attention for the Walsh campaign.

Shortly after winning a six-way GOP primary, the Daily Herald revealed Walsh, who asserts himself as a tea party candidate, had foreclosed on an Evanston condo and then rented a large Winnetka home before starting his campaign.

He is also being sued by his former campaign manager for $20,000 in allegedly unpaid compensation. More recently he was forced to pay a penalty to the U.S. House for failing to file mandated disclosure reports.

The revelations have worried party leaders, including those at the national level who view the Northwest suburban seat held by U.S. Rep. Melissa Bean as a potential target - given the right candidate.

Bean is considered a formidable contender, having unseated the longest serving House Republican, Phil Crane, in 2004 and holding the seat against wealthy challengers. In April, Bean had more than $1 million in her campaign fund to Walsh's $43,000.

Meanwhile, Walsh's issues have led to speculation that party officials might ask him to step aside with state Sen. Matt Murphy's name has been floated as a replacement.

The Palatine lawmaker recently lost a bid for lieutenant governor running alongside former party Chairman Andy McKenna, so his profile is a bit higher than other potential stand-ins.

Asked about the possibility recently, Murphy said he was supporting Walsh, but said he would consider a run against Bean if Walsh stepped down.

"We currently have a nominee, and that needs to be stressed," Murphy said.

Candidates who lost to Walsh would no doubt also be considered as replacements.

Lake County GOP Chairman Bob Cook said no one in Tuesday's meeting asked Walsh to step down.

"Our goal is focused. We want to beat Melissa Bean," he said. "And we will do everything we can to make that happen."

Meanwhile, Walsh is showing no signs of backing down. He recently said he his moving his family to a home in McHenry to fulfill a primary promise to relocate into the district.

"Everything is moving forward (with the campaign)," Walsh campaign manager Nick Provenzano said Wednesday.