Cook County politics has never been particularly welcoming to Republicans. Despite record tax increases, bloated pay- rolls, and a run of scandals under the Democrats, the GOP’s success rate against their county rivals is roughly comparable to that of the anti-Kremlin candidates in Russia. Of the 28 elected county officials, only five are Republicans. But there is hope, local GOP officials believe, and it lies on the Internet.
A few months before Illinois’s February 5th primary, county Republicans hung up a virtual help-wanted sign on their Web site, CookRepublican Party.com. Anyone interested in being the party’s nominee for, say, recorder of deeds or clerk of the circuit court or one of three Metropolitan Water Reclamation District slots need only send an e-mail to email@example.com. “With as much electronic communication that we have now, a lot more people sit at their computer and search out various and sundry things and they may well be looking to run for something,” says Eugene Dawson, the Barrington Township Republican committeeman and a member of the party’s slating committee. “We’re trying to use every piece of communication that we can.”
The Web ad yielded nothing for the primary election—the lone Republican candidate for countywide office on the February ballot was the state’s attorney candidate, established pol Tony Peraica—but the new party chairman, Lee Roupas, promises a full slate for the November general election, and at least a few of the candidates may be people who responded to the online ad. “It’s actually been very refreshing to see the response we’ve gotten at the grass-roots level because you never know when you put something online what kind of response you’ll get,” says Roupas. “We could sit in a smoke-filled backroom and just have our friends on the ticket like the Democratic Machine, but you can’t lose when you open up the process and have more people involved.”