Guest Column: Why four said ‘No’ to local GOP

By Tom Seymour

When is an endorsement not an endorsement? When it is a “rating.” But to four Republican County Board candidates, they are really the same thing.

Last month, Winnebago County Republican Central Committee Chairman Jim Thompson sent a letter to county board candidates telling them they would be “screened” for “ratings” by the party. Although the letter states “as in past years,” this is, in fact, the first time county board candidates have been “rated.”

Candidates are being asked to fill out a lengthy questionnaire, and the party will issue ratings in each contested race in March. Jan. 24, four candidates held a news conference to denounce the plan, and have notified Thompson they will not participate.

Michele Corirossi, Patty Austin, Ricky Davis and David Kelley sent a joint letter to Thompson, declining participation and asking the party to drop the plan altogether. The four candidates say the screening is just a way for the party to endorse without calling it an endorsement.

The questionnaire asks several questions about the candidates’ funding, information that could be useful if leaked to the opposition. Another question asks “Have you ever voted for, or contributed to, a Democratic or liberal organization; if so, provide dates/details.” Yes, the candidates are being asked to tell whom they have voted for!

Davis offered this thought: “I’m asked to give this kind of information to the party, whose treasurer challenged my petition and tried to have me thrown off the ballot?” Davis notes that attempts were made to get him to drop out of the race, and when he would not, he was challenged. The county election board voted 3-0 to keep him on the ballot.

Corirossi also says there was a major effort to get her not to file her petition and to withdraw after filing. As to the screening process, she said, “Who are these people to screen me?”

In their letter to Thompson, the four added, “Republican voters can make their own choices without party ‘recommendations.’” All four candidates are challenging incumbents in the March 20 primary. Corirossi faces John Sweeney, Austin faces Kyle Logan, Davis faces Gary Jury, and Kelley faces Kevin Horstman.

From the Feb. 8-14, 2012, issue

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