Pat Brady

Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune

Pat Brady slogged through some tough times as state Republican party chair. After coming out for gay marriage, he weathered the attempts of Jim Oberweis and others to oust him from office—a volunteer position—until, last Tuesday, when he quit on his own terms. 

I talked to Brady, 52, by telephone late Friday afternoon. He settled a score or two.

A nonpracticing lawyer, whose day job was with Price Waterhouse Coopers, Brady also offered  some details of a new lobbying firm he’s starting with a couple of his fellow Republicans. He lives in St. Charles—he grew up in Bloomington—with his wife, Julie, a former federal prosecutor who quit to raise the couple’s four children, and served as deputy co-chair of the McCain Illinois 2008 campaign. 

CF: I can give you a list of people whose names have been floated to take your place—a couple of examples being state Rep. Ron Sandack, like you a gay marriage supporter, and DuPage County official Darlene Ruscitti. I could go on. If you could pick, whom would you like to see replace you?

PB: If I said I had a preference it would hurt their chances. Some people are not happy with me. 

CF: I’ve even heard the names of former congressman Joe Walsh and Ron Gidwitz mentioned. 

PB: Joe has a radio gig. [He has a weekday night talk show on WIND-AM.]  It’s not going to happen. There would be no one better than Ron Gidwitz, but he has no interest in it.

CF: Would you enumerate the qualities that a state party head should have?

PB: The ability to raise money.

CF: You were quoted as saying “The political leadership has to recognize it’s not 1980 anymore.” What did you mean?

PB: I’m not referring to elected officials. I’m referring to people in the Republican state central committee. They’re treating the party as if it were 1980.  It’s a different electorate. We need a bigger tent; we have to welcome people into the party, not exclude them.

CF: Would you like to see a woman take the helm? There’s been only one so far, current state comptroller Judy Baar Topinka. Could you give me a name of a woman who would be a good choice in the job?

PB: I could give you 50.  Great women activists, elected officials. Darlene Ruscitti or Gabriela Wyatt, co-chair of the Illinois Republican State Central Committee, are two of many.

CF: Should your successor support gay marriage?

PB: Up to them. I believe that this law should pass and that we Republicans need a diversity of opinions.

CF: State senator Jim Oberweis has said that your successor could privately support gay marriage but shouldn’t go public with it. What do you think of that position?

PB: I think it’s idiotic and disingenuous. You have to show leadership. That’s not leadership.

CF: What do you think of Ron Gidwitz’s remark that the conservative faction of the GOP is “destroying” the party’s chances in the 2014 statewide elections.

PB: I agree with him completely. But it’s not the conservatives. It’s some of the people on the central committee that are making a mess of the party apparatus.

CF: Who do you see as the Republicans’ best pick for governor?

PB: Whoever can win. I see Kirk Dillard and Bruce Rauner as the strongest. Dillard has a good base of support in voter-rich DuPage County. Rauner has worked hard, has a compelling story on how to run the state. These two appear to be the front-runners.

CF: What did you think of the governors of Texas and Florida coming to Illinois to try to attract our business?  

PB: I didn’t enjoy it. It’s embarrassing. I want the state to do well. Now it’s a rotten environment for business. The state has all you could want—an educated work force, good health care, Chicago is one of the greatest cities in the world.  Bad public policy takes our jobs.

CF: For four years, you ran the Republican party in Illinois, while your Democratic counterpart was the most powerful man in Illinois politics—House Speaker Mike Madigan. Was that difficult?

PB: There’s nobody who has accumulated more power than Mike Madigan. Hats off to him for that. It’s pretty clear that his policy decisions are not good for the state, so it’s a double-edged sword. I think most people agree it’s time for a new generation of leadership in Springfield. He’s been down there a long time.

CF: If his daughter Lisa Madigan runs, should Mike step aside?

PB: Yes.

CF: Would you consider Lisa to be a new generation of leadership?

PB: No, the same politics.

CF: Has Mark Kirk become more liberal since his stroke?

PB: I don’t think so. He’s always been policy-wise a strong fiscal conservative, foreign policy hawk. Having gone through what he went through he’s certainly now more introspective. There’s no person for whom I have greater respect than Mark Kirk; he’s inspirational, a great leader.

CF: Is he running again in 2016?

PB: Yes. We are already planning fundraisers. He’s running.

CF: What do you think about Bob Dold announcing he’s going to run in 2014 against Brad Schneider and try to reclaim his congressional seat?

PB: I’m excited. I have one regret: we didn’t give Bob Dold a better early vote plan. It cost him the election. We’ll learn from our mistakes. We’re going to design a more up-to-date program.

CF: I thought maybe I’d see Dold’s name among possibilities for state chairman.

PB: He’s too smart to be party chairman. Of all the losses in 2012 Bob’s was the most painful. Such a good congressman. He ran a small business and people like that understand the economy better than anyone.

CF: You’ve said that the state party head job was like having a second job. How are you going to fill those hours?

PB: On June 1, I’ll be announcing that, with two friends of mine, Matt Strawn, the former chairman of the Iowa Republican party, and Bob Fitzsimmons, a former partner at Mayer Brown, I’m forming a government affairs firm.

CF: You mean a lobbying firm?

PB: Yes. The firm will cover the six upper Midwestern states. I’ll commute between Chicago and DC. We’ll have offices in Chicago, Des Moines,  and Washington.