As Lake County's Republican candidates prepare for political battle in 2010, they'll have to campaign without one of their biggest cheerleaders.
Lake County Republican Federation Executive Director Antonietta Simonian resigned from her post last week, saying she wants to spend more time with her teenage daughter and pursue other options.
"You know when to hold 'em, you know when to fold 'em," Simonian, 49, of Libertyville said, paraphrasing a famous Kenny Rogers song.
She's been replaced as leader of the GOP's local fundraising arm by Chelsey Stanley, a 23-year-old from Kenosha. Stanley, who grew up in Winthrop Harbor, comes from the Illinois Policy Institute, a Chicago think tank.
She formerly served as an intern with the Republican Federation and with one of U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk's campaigns.
Stanley's youth should be a benefit to the GOP, especially when it comes to using technology to promote candidates and Republican issues, Simonian said. Social-networking Web sites like Facebook and Twitter, now seen as important campaign tools, are second nature to Stanley and people her age, Simonian said.
The party's top local boss has faith in Stanley's abilities, too.
"I think she'll do a great job," Lake County GOP Chairman Dan Venturi said. "Is she going to do the same thing Ant did? No. It's two different things."
Stanley assumed her new role Friday and said she's ready for the job ahead.
"I've got some big shoes to fill... but I bring fresh energy, a fresh perspective and a real passion for Republican politics," she said.
Simonian led the federation from 1998 to 2003 but quit to take a job with the United Way. She returned to the Republican group in 2005, following a period that saw three leaders in charge.
A chief reason for Simonian's first departure was the Democratic Party's statewide successes in the 2002 election. Since then, Democrats have continued to make significant inroads in Lake County, which once was staunchly Republican.
"I'm tired of not seeing changes take place in Lake County that I would like to see take place," Simonian said, adding she's particularly concerned about high taxes and local jobs.
Regardless, Simonian said it's her desire to be more involved in the life of her 14-year-old daughter, Francesca, that's prompted the career change.
"I really don't want politics to (get) in the way of enjoying time with her," she said.
Although she's been involved in campaigns for years, Simonian's not considering running for office.
"That would take me away from my daughter even more," she said.