Over the past few days, my inbox has been inundated by various GOP candidates touting their endorsements by the various Township Republican organizations. If you are a GOP candidate with a primary opponent, such endorsements can be a nice boost for your campaign and give you an edge over your opponent. At the very least, it gives you an excuse to send out a press release and something to say on your literature. I think the newspaper endorsements still carry more weight among the general public, but since primaries are run in Illinois along party lines, the endorsement of several Republican groups can be quite helpful, if you have enough money and manpower to inform the primary voters. Such endorsements are certainly not something that usually makes it into the newspaper, so candidates are on their own for publicizing such things.
For the uninitiated (and I had someone ask me a question about this just yesterday), such endorsements are given by the township Republican organization, which is the official GOP organization for each township (in other words, it has nothing to do with the elected township government officials, such as Township Supervisor, highway commissioner, assessor, etc.). The Township GOP organization is made up of elected and appointed precinct committeemen, and these committeemen select a chairman of the Township organization. Again, these are all positions only within the Republican Party, and the Dems have a mirror structure on their side, doing pretty much the same thing.
The way most Township Republican groups run their endorsement sessions goes like this: First, the Township organization decides among themselves if they will do endorsements at all. Many do, but some don't, and some switch back on forth every cycle. It's all up to the committeemen who hold those posts at the time. Next, the organization invites each candidate to come to an 'endorsement session,' which is a meeting of the group (often a Saturday morning) where the candidates come and are given 5 minutes or so to make their stump speech and take questions. The committeemen then vote after all the presentations are done, and a certain majority of the vote is needed to endorse a candidate (the exact percentage of the vote needed is again up to the committeemen to decide amongst themselves -- for example, Cuba Township requires 67% --, and the vote is usually 'weighted', which means that precinct committeemen who had more people turn out in their precinct to vote in the last election get a weighted vote based on those results). Still with me? Well, that's the open side of the story. The 'backroom' part of the story is that candidates often work their personal relationships and lobby the individual committeemen to try to gain supporters and form coalitions to obtain the endorsement, all before the actual endorsement session. Nothing wrong with this, in my view; that's just the way it works. Many committeemen (and I used to be one, myself), find this welcome and flattering, and say that it's the only time during the year that they get any attention! (there aren't a lot of perks in being a committeeman, but this is apparently one of them).
In any case, this is by no means supposed to be a comprehensive list (and we're only concentrating on contested primaries), and feel free to self-report in comments, but here is a select few (all listed 'Townships' are the Township Republican Organization for each such township and should not be confused with the government of the township itself):
Keith Brin for Circuit Court Clerk: Endorsed by Libertyville, Cuba and Wauconda Townships
Lauren Turelli for State Rep., 58th Dist.: Endorsed by New Trier Township
David McSweeney for State Rep. 52nd Dist: Endorsed by Cuba and Wauconda Townships
Dan Donahue for County Board: Endorsed by Libertyville Township
Bryan Winter for Lake County State's Attorney: Endorsed by Wauconda Township, Cuba Township and Libertyville Township (with a very rare unanimous endorsement from Libertyville)
Steve Newton for Coroner: Endorsed by Wauconda, Cuba and Libertyville Townships
Nick Sauer for County Board: Endorsed by Wauconda Township
Bob Bednar for Lake County Recorder of Deeds: Endorsed by Cuba and Libertyville Township
Adding... GOP candidate Don Castella took a bit of a hit this morning in the Daily Herald, with an article about a personal Facebook post Castella made regarding his religous viewpoint that gays must 'repent.' Given the opening, Castella's opponent, incumbent State Senator Terry Link was quick to respond, calling Castella' comments, "mind-boggling." While I support Castella against Link, I think that I, along with many Republicans, don't support Don's views on this issue. Even Lake County GOP Chairman Bob Cook was quick to distance himself and the party from them, saying that Castella's views "are not the views of the Republican Party." On the other hand, Castella is entitled to his religious views, just as Senator Link is, and it's worth noting that neither candidate seems to have sought to inject their religious views into the campaign (the DH article notes that the comment from Castella was made from his personal, not campaign, Facebook account, and Link stated in the article that he doesn't want religious issues to be a focus of the campaign due to the separation of church and state).
I'm sure we will be hearing more on this issue, but I think it's interesting that Terry Link is even responding to questions concerning Castella at this point, as Link seems to have always viewed himself as invincible in his district and barely seems to have acknowledged GOP challengers in the past.