CHICAGO (AP) — Under mounting pressure from prominent Republican leaders, the Illinois GOP's central committee canceled a meeting Saturday in which members were to consider firing party chairman Pat Brady, largely because he spoke out in favor of a bill to end the state ban on gay marriage.
It was unclear if the committee had enough votes to fire Brady. State Sen. Jim Oberweis, one of the GOP committeemen leading the charge to oust Brady, said it was "certainly a possibility" that the issue could come up again at the party's meeting in April.
Oberweis, of North Aurora, said Saturday that members wanted more time and also wanted to be sure Brady, who is out of town, could attend.
"Some of the members thought it would be better to take a little more time and make sure Pat could be back," Oberweis told The Associated Press. "... I think we're all interested in figuring out how to help revive the Republican Party in Illinois."
After a poor showing at the polls in November, national Republican party leaders vowed to work harder to attract more young, moderate and minority voters — those who may be on board with the party fiscally speaking, but don't agree with conservative views on social issues, such as immigration and gay rights.
But politicians who step out on the ledge in order to instigate change risk getting pushed off, as their actions raise the ire of social conservatives, the Republicans most likely to vote in primaries and have leadership posts.
Rep. Tom Cross, the top Republican in the Illinois House, has said the push to fire Brady was "a big mistake."
"We're a party that prides itself and often talks about having a big tent approach. And if we're going to be a party that grows ... we need to acknowledge that ... we're not always going to agree with each other 100 percent," Cross said. "To me, you can be for (gay marriage), or you can be against it. But we ought to say to 'You have a place in this party.'"
U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, the state's ranking Republican lawmaker, also said it would be a mistake to remove Brady, spokesman Lance Trover said Friday. Kirk voted to end the policy on gays serving in the military, known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and opposes a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.
Last month, more than 75 prominent Republicans, including seven former governors and advisers to former President George W. Bush, signed a legal brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down California's ban on same-sex marriage. Former First Lady Laura Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney also support gay marriage.
Cross believes Republicans "turned a lot of people off" in November — particularly younger, suburban and minority voters who felt the GOP was trying to tell them how to live their lives. Former Governors Jim Thompson and Jim Edgar are among other prominent state Republicans who have spoken out in support of Brady.
Oberweis said gay marriage isn't the only reason he wants Brady gone; he also blames Brady for the poor November election results and for working against some Republicans in primary elections.
If Brady opposed the party's position on gay marriage, Oberweis said earlier this week, he should have properly changed the GOP platform.
"I believe that the Republican Party identity has to be on financial sanity, solving some of our fiscal mess," said Oberweis, a dairy magnate. "This other stuff is a diversion from that."