Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Tale of 2 GOP Headquarters': Evanston and Niles Twp.

I believe that you can tell a lot about an organization by the status of its physical presence in the community in which it operates.

By this measure, the Evanston GOP is in a pretty clear state of full bored retreat.

For decades it worked out of a very impressive storefront located directly across Davis St. from the monumentally stately Evanston Post Office building. Its very presence there suggested that it was a pillar of the Evanston establishment like the Post Office itself -- which it had been from about the time of the Civil War until about 2000.
Niles Twp. GOP Committeeman Joe Hedrick
built a new Republican HQ

Around 2004, an unknown elementary school secretary named Linda Lafianza came from out of nowhere to assume the Evanston GOP committeman's post.

Just about her first move was to close down the impressive downtown Evanston HQ and move it to a hidden away, hole-in-the-wall, 2nd floor office in a Bank building on the very fringe of Evanston.

It is so far on the fringe of Evanston, located across the street from the seedy Howard & Western shopping center, that if someone fell out of the window of Lafianza's HQ, they would land in Berny Stone's 50th Ward of Chicago.

Needless to say, little of practical political value takes place in the inaccessable, invisible, usually closed Evanston GOP HQ.

During the recently concluded Evanston mayoral elections the Evanston GOP was about as much a factor as the Women's Christian Temperance Union (which was founded in Evanston and oddly still has a vestigial presence there.)

In that election, the ultra-left candidate of the Schakowsky-Creamer Democrat machine waltzed to a landslide victory without even breaking a sweat.

If Evanston is clearly a Republican organization in retreat, the neighboring Niles Township Republican Party seems to be one in a revanchist mode.

It just elected one of its own members Mayor of Morton Grove.

For years, the Niles Township Republicans had a large airy headquarters in the solid old Bronx building, right across from the Skokie Swift terminal and a few blocks from downtown Skokie and from the Morton Grove village line.

There, a little army of precinct captains would meet, get their walking orders and walking around cash from GOP committeeman, Sate Sen. John Nimrod. They would reportedly only get their walking around cash when Nimrod decided not to simply pocket it for himself.

When Nimrod flew the coop to a sturdier GOP base in Park Ridge, a succession of nondescript figures assumed the role of committeman and eventually the HQ was closed and GOP business was conducted haphazardly in library and park district meeting rooms.

As late as 2002, a liberal-Republican committeeman named Sheldon Marcus had a "headquarters" which consisted of a lone desk set aside in the office of his personal PR firm. For this GOP "headquarters" desk, he paid himself rent from the organization coffers.

Then Joe Hedrick, a longtime conservative activist from Morton Grove, assembled a precinct army of 2nd amendment advocates, right to lifers and assorted other Republican activists and blew the do-nothing Marcus out of the water in the 2002 election for GOP committeeman.

Among the things Hedrick promised in that campaign was to reestablish a concrete GOP HQ in Niles Township. After his landslide win, he did just that and for the past 7 years Republicans in Niles Township (Skokie, Morton Grove, Lincolnwood and parts of Niles and Glenview) have had a physical presence in a nice little storefront at the corner of Lowell and Oakton in Skokie.

It has an actual electrified outdoor sign to announce its presence.

The Niles HQ has served as a meeting place for the organization and as a seminal campaign office for local GOP candidates, who could not afford to rent one.

And neighbors actually walk in in to just chat and shoot the breeze about politics-- how about that!

In sharp contrast to Evanston, where the GOP was a non-factor in the recent municipal elections, Hedrick and the Niles Twp. GOP just elected one of their own, Dan Staackman, Mayor of Morton Grove.

Like I said, you can tell a lot about an organization by the status of its physical presence in the community in which it operates.

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Comments invited, however anonymous commentors had better deal directly with the issues raised and avoid ad hominem drivel. As for Teachers' Union seminar writers -- forget about it.