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Senate Race Could Change the Power Dynamics of Illinois Republican Party PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Illinois Politics
Tuesday, 21 October 2003 18:00
Addison Township was once king of the state’s Republican hill. The Illinois Senate President (Pate Philip), House Republican Leader (Lee Daniels), and state attorney general (Jim Ryan) all lived in the eastern DuPage County township. When people talked about the power of DuPage County Republicans, they were really speaking of Addison Township’s enormous strength.

But Pate Philip retired a few months ago, Lee Daniels is now just another member of the House, and Jim Ryan lost a race for governor last year. Pate is still the county party chairperson, but if the scads of rumors are true, he might be on his way out of that post as well – voluntarily or otherwise.

And up until just a few days ago, it looked like Addison would also lose control of Pate’s former Senate seat. Representative Carole Pankau (R-Roselle), a resident of neighboring Bloomingdale Township, looked like the far-and-away frontrunner for the job.

By all accounts, Addison Township GOP Committeeperson Patrick Durante has tried from day one to keep Pankau out of the Senate. Durante pushed Pate to appoint an Addison resident to his Senate slot, and reportedly told the county party chairperson that if he appointed a caretaker who wouldn’t run for the job, he would be giving Pankau a leg up on any Addison competition.

Pate did exactly that, however, so Durante has been looking for a strong candidate ever since. And then one fell into his lap.

Word is, Durante originally wanted to slate Dennis Reboletti for county board. Reboletti got his start in local politics with a bang several years ago. He ran a successful write-in campaign against an incumbent Elmhurst alderman, back in the days when voters had to draw a box, mark it with an “X” and then precisely spell the candidate’s full name – no easy feat for a guy with a name like Reboletti. He did well on the council, and when a seat opened up on the Addison Township Board, Durante appointed Reboletti.

The county board seemed like a natural step up for Reboletti, but when Durante approached him about the job, he wasn’t interested. Reboletti reportedly told Durante that he wanted Pate’s Senate seat, and was so dead-set on the idea that Durante eventually agreed to back him.

A poll was taken that reportedly revealed some of Pankau’s weaknesses, and Reboletti publicly revealed his intentions a few days later. Pate Philip has reportedly told some locals that he is backing Pankau, but he was talking up Reboletti’s chances to fellow pols last week, sources say.

Pankau’s cause took a beating not long ago when her husband, Bloomingdale Township Republican Party Vice Chairperson John Pankau, sent a letter to Bloomingdale party activists ripping into several prominent Republicans for not contributing or not contributing enough to the township’s annual golf outing.

Targeted for ire were Illinois Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, DuPage State’s Attorney Joe Birkett, DuPage County Board Vice Chairperson Bill Maio, County Treasurer John Novak, and county board member John Noel.

Mr. Pankau suggested that Bloomingdale precinct committeemen might want to think about not passing petitions for the offending parties as retribution. The letter quickly made its way around the county, and several honchos were not amused.

Insider catfighting aside, however, the Reboletti camp says Representative Pankau’s votes to raise state fees and soften the property-tax cap will be used against her extensively next spring. Reboletti portrayed himself to a suburban newspaper recently as coming from a “different perspective” than Pankau.

“I am not part of the Springfield mindset,” Reboletti told the paper, adding, “Without protecting business and jobs, we will continue to lose money in the state,” most likely an early reference to Pankau’s voting record.

This will be a fascinating race, campers. Representative Pankau is an attractive, extremely likable person and a very experienced campaigner who has been involved in DuPage politics for a long time, including a stint on the county board. She has built an extensive network of friends and volunteers, and belongs to a political organization (Bloomingdale Township) that is hungrily looking to finally emerge from the long political shadow of its powerful neighbor. She has a reputation as a moderate in the House, but she is strongly pro-life, and while she wasn’t wholeheartedly endorsed by the Illinois State Rifle Association last year, she was listed as a “preferred” candidate.

Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter. He can be reached at (http://www.capitolfax.com).
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