Illinois Republican officials brought state Rep. Beth Coulson along to a strategy meeting with national party leader Michael Steele Friday, but they worked hard to dispel any notion they favor her in the seven-way GOP primary for congress.
"It is just a sit-down to get the lay of the land in Illinois," says Curt Conrad, spokesman for the Illinois Republican Party.
Coulson was one of about a dozen Republicans who met with Steele while he was in the area for private fundraisers. The meeting was organized by Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady, who invited GOP leaders from the state House and Senate.
Coulson was invited by House Republican Leader Tom Cross of Oswego, who has endorsed her 10th District primary bid.
Brady said he is not endorsing in the 10th District race, and other candidates in the primary received phone calls Friday reassuring them of that.
"We want to inform the chairman of what is going on in this state and what we believe is a great opportunity," Brady said of the meeting.
Coulson promoted her attendance at the meeting on Thursday and said in a news release that she planned to talk about how Republicans can win in Illinois and also "how we can keep this seat in Republican control."
The Glenview Republican said after the meeting she didn't discuss the 10th District race and that she was invited because she has been targeted by Democrats several times over her 13 years in office.
"They wanted to know - How do I do it?" she said.
The race to replace U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk in the 10th District will likely draw millions of dollars in spending as the GOP hopes to retain the seat even though voters there have continually elected Democrats at all levels of government but the U.S. House.
While party leaders worked to assure primary candidates that Coulson was not getting a nod from the bosses Friday, the reality remained that she was the lone candidate in the field to be invited to a meeting with the Republican National Committee chairman to talk about Republican chances in 2010.
Some in the Republican party have been upset over favoritism shown to Kirk in his Senate race. Nearly every party leader has backed the five-term congressman even though many of his positions, including those on gun control and abortion, don't fall in line with party doctrine.
But on Friday, Coulson's opponents decided to take the issue out on her and not party leaders.
"Beth Coulson appears to want to create impressions that don't exist," said Winnetka attorney Bill Cadigan about the lawmaker's Thursday news release touting the meeting. "The voters in the 10th District are going to decide who the nominee is."
Others running in the 10th District GOP primary include: Kenilworth businessman Robert Dold, Winnetka businessman Dick Green, Lake Forest electrical engineer Paul Hamann, Mount Prospect resident Patricia Bird and Highland Park pediatrician Arie Friedman.