Thursday, January 06, 2005

Updated January 6, 2005 at 10:10 pm, revised at 12:30 am on January 7.
The essential Jim Oberweis- direct and to the point, an oasis of candor in rocky public policy terrain that is too often dominated by ducking and dodging pols.

Jim Oberweis [2004 Republican Primary U. S. Senate Candidate, came in 2nd to Jack Ryan; current candidate for State GOP Chairman]: I believe many of our party leaders’ views, including our President’s, are moderate. I believe that some in our party, like Judy [Baar Topinka], are extreme liberals… I think Andy [McKenna, Jr.] is of high integrity but I am just not sure that he is gonna have the guts to speak out…
Berkowitz: ...her [Judy Baar Topinka] role as State GOP Chairman—so many questions, and so few answers.
Jeff Berkowitz: … That pretty much means he [Andy McKenna, Jr.] has got a lock on it, he is almost right there, probably at 50% [of the weighted Republican State Central Committee vote for State GOP Chairman scheduled for Jan. 15 in Springfield, IL].

Jim Oberweis: Yeah, that [Ray LaHood’s support] gives him Mary Alice Erickson.

Berkowitz: Do you really think Andy [McKenna, Jr.] can do this [execute the state GOP Chairman responsibilities]? Do you need somebody who is a forceful spokesperson and is--

Oberweis: Well, I think you do. That’s why I say—I am not sure—I think Andy is of high integrity but I am just not sure that he is gonna have the guts to speak out and do what’s necessary and that he’s going to be aggressive enough about it.

Berkowitz: Now, in terms of running for Governor…certainly [State Senator] Rauschenberger is looking at this… and [former State Senator Pat]O’Malley seems to be giving it some thought and you are giving it some thought, possibly [DuPage County State’s Attorney] Joe Birkett- you know, do you run into a problem if you folks all give it some thought and get in there…run into a problem from the conservative perspective in that you folks would split up the conservative vote so much that it might make it easy for a moderate to win the [Republican] primary [for Governor].

Oberweis: Well, first of all, I am going to object to your terminology.

Berkowitz: Is that right?

Oberweis: The terminology that I object to is “moderate.” I believe my views, I believe [former U. S. Senator] Peter Fitzgerald’s views, I believe many of our party leaders’ views, including our President, are moderate. I believe that some in our party, like Judy [Baar Topinka], are extreme liberals. And, so I really object to that—

Berkowitz: But, you don’t object to being called a conservative, do you?

Oberweis: No.

Berkowitz: Okay…I will note that. But…however we refer to these people who are not conservatives, if the …conservatives all get into the primary, do you split up that vote so a non-conservative …Judy [Baar Topinka] or someone else—

Oberweis: I think you will see either Judy or Ron Gidwitz, one of the two in there and yes, it’s possible that that could give them an opening…
Berkowitz: So, that could be a problem [for conservatives]. Do you think Judy [Baar Topinka] might run?

Oberweis: I believe that either Judy or Ron Gidwitz. One of them, but probably not both of them.

Berkowitz: They will work that out, right? In terms of who runs?

Oberweis: Yeah, I mean they-- they sat down-- Ed Brennan [Executive Chairman of the Board, American Airlines], Ron Gidwitz [who inherited most of the value of the old Helene Curtis Company and the opportunity to become the Company’s President and CEO, prior to its sale] and Judy [Baar Topinka, who is said to have been mentored by George (Birthday) Ryan, thereby in a sense inheriting the opportunity to become State Treasurer] are the ones that sat down and decided that Andy [McKenna, Jr., who essentially inherited the opportunity to become President of Schwarz Paper Company and will presumably inherit or has received much of the value of the Company and other assets from Andy McKenna, Sr.] is going to be our [GOP] Party Chairman.

Berkowitz: Yes, but Ed is somebody who is respected by a number of conservatives.

Oberweis: Absolutely.

Berkowitz: He doesn’t align himself necessarily in terms of—

Oberweis: Absolutely.

Berkowitz: Is he a conservative? Or is he not? Or, where he is on that spectrum?

Oberweis: I don’t know.

Berkowitz: But you are saying they worked it out. Do you think Ed [Brennan] just thought this would be good for the party, as opposed to advancing any—

Oberweis: Yes. I think Ed is a terrific guy and he has done a great job in raising funds. In fact, I think Gary MacDougal [Judy’s predecessor as State GOP Chairman] is the one who first brought him in, if I am not mistaken.

Berkowitz: Right, that’s what I understand. But, what about Bob Schillerstrom [DuPage County Board Chairman]? Do you know him and do you think he will get involved?

Oberweis: I do know him. I think he will talk about it and think about it. I will be surprised if he actually gets involved [in the Republican Primary for Governor].

Berkowitz: How come? Any reason why you think that?

Oberweis: Well, he would have an awfully big hill to climb. He obviously does not have statewide name recognition. He is well known in DuPage County. But, it takes a lot of money and a wide following to win this Governor’s race.
Interview of Jim Oberweis by Jeff Berkowitz on January 5, 2005.
Rauschenberger, Oberweis and Schillerstrom are scheduled to appear on “Public Affairs,” over the course of the next month. Although State GOP Chairman Judy Baar Topinka has appeared on our show several times-- about five years ago, in her role as State Treasurer-- she has declined numerous requests over the last two years to appear on our show in her role as State GOP Chairman—so many questions, and so few answers.]
Jeff Berkowitz, Host and Producer of Public Affairs and an Executive Recruiter doing Legal Search, can be reached at