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Let’s return integrity and conservatism to the Illinois Republican Party

My name is Peter LaBarbera. I am a 47-year-old, happily married father of five living in Naperville — and an elected precinct committeeman in the Naperville Township Republican Organization. Today I am asking for your vote to serve as Republican State Central Committeeman for the 13 Congressional District of Illinois.

I entered this race as a strong fiscal and social conservative in the model of Illinois’ own Ronald Reagan. I believe that the IL-GOP is badly in need of reform and that we can be better served than by our current leaders – including my opponent, Roger Claar — who have put power over principle and lost sight of the greatness that a conservative Republican Party can achieve.

As a Reagan Republican, my dream for the Illinois Republican Party is that it would return to the standards of conservatism, decency, integrity and high principle of the man who grew up here, in Dixon, and who as President restored American greatness and accomplished what many said was impossible: to force the demise of Soviet Communism, an “Evil Empire” (as Reagan called it) and the most murderous political system ever created.

Like Ronald Reagan, I am a committed to certain core principles, from which I will never waver; most are enumerated in the Republican Party Platform:

  • The right to life: the GOP is the party of life, a value our public servants should not run from but rather embrace, as Reagan did. As one who has a younger brother with Down Syndrome, I cherish this principle, understanding that a society that allows “imperfect” or “inconvenient” lives to be discarded in the name of “choice” erodes the dignity of life for every American. Let the Democrats be the party of abortion-on-demand; we Republicans must celebrate life, a gift from God, with its endless potential for good;
  • Revitalized GOP through competition: Unlike my opponent, I enthusiastically support SB600 as a means of strengthening the conservative grassroots of the IL-GOP. A party leadership that fears the grassroots is one destined to produce failure and stagnation. IL-GOP big-shots oppose SB600 because it threatens their hold on the party. They selfishly put their narrow interests above the Party’s. SB600 will open up and reinvigorate the IL-GOP through competition at the local level. Conservative ideas championed by faithful, empowered Republicans across Illinois will rise to the surface and grow the Party.
  • Small government: our hope is in the entrepreneurial engine of private business and the ingenuity of industrious Americans – not in government. Public service is not intended to enrich and empower our leaders through “pay-to-play” politics and other schemes; nor is it meant to build political war-chests, but rather to enable everyday Illinois citizens to live their life and their American dream to the fullest – with common-sense government and limited interference from the state;
  • Low taxes: we are already overtaxed in Illinois. Rather than consider new taxes, we must lower taxes and the financial burden on families, which will ignite economic growth and draw people to our state rather than drive them away – as the current Democrat tax-and-spend policies have done;
  • Conservative and Constitutional values: we must distinguish ourselves from the Democrats and give voters a real choice by remaining faithful to conservative, pro-family principles. “Gay marriage” is not a Republican value. Neither is unbridled gambling justified as a revenue stream for bloated government. We cannot hope to win Tea Party votes if we scorn Tea Party values. Our liberties – including the right to life — come from God and we must remain the party that preserves freedom and opportunity through economic growth.
  • Truth over Political Correctness: my whole professional life has been about commitment to Truth over politically correct trends – including my current role as founder of Americans For Truth , a group dedicated to opposing the powerful Homosexual Lobby. As Republicans, we must stop “settling,” and remember that commitment to Truth and Principle – embodied by solid conservative values — is our highest calling. Corruption and Politics-for-Personal-Enrichment should have no place in the GOP.
  • A Nation Under God: America is truly, as Reagan believed, a Nation Under God, and we must reject secular ideologies that arrogantly assume that we can remain great even as we reject timeless moral values and our Judeo-Christian heritage. Ultimately, as a nation and individually, we answer to a holy and just God.

I was born in Chicago and lived as a boy in Elmhurst and then Winfield (our house was at the corner of County Farm and Blair Roads) before moving to Michigan at age 12. After graduating from the University of Michigan, I worked for various conservative and pro-family organizations including Accuracy in Media, the Council for Inter-American Security, Concerned Women for America and Family Research Council.

I also served as a reporter for The Washington Times, where I cut my teeth in public policy covering Ronald Reagan’s bold foreign policy initiative of supporting “freedom fighters” battling Communist client states. I made several reporting trips to Central America – then a battleground between freedom and Communism. One of the greatest moments in my life was in 1990 witnessing firsthand the stunning election in Nicaragua in which the people – finally given the right to vote – overthrew the Soviet-backed Sandinista regime. The next day my wife Cristina and I watched as Western leftists (“gringos” whom the locals derided as “Sandal-istas”) sulked  around the capital, Managua, with their heads down — while joyous Nicaraguans, packed like sardines in the back of beat-up Toyota pick-ups, cheered and celebrated their surprise victory over Marxism-Leninism.

Ronald Reagan’s uncompromising commitment to freedom in the face of leftist Democrat appeasement made that Nicaraguan vote possible. Today, in Illinois, we also want the right to choose our own Illinois Republican Party leaders – yet entrenched Combine supporters like Roger Claar do not trust us – that is, you – to make that decision and decide the course of your Republican Party according to your conservative values.

When I left Washington and returned to Illinois in 2003 to head up the Illinois Family Institute, I was disappointed to find what I consider one of the most dysfunctional and corrupt Republican Parties in the nation. Time after time “moderate” Republicans showed their contempt for conservatives and used their office to expand their own personal power at the expense of the Party’s well-being.

I am an idealist, but the reporter in me recognizes that I am perhaps the longest of long-shots in this election against an entrenched and powerful politician with a ton of money at his disposal. And yet after reviewing Mayor Claar’s record, I do not regret heeding the call to get in this race. For values like “integrity” and “principle” do not jump off the page when studying his record:

  • Mr. Claar is an avid supporter of George Ryan, even rallying to his defense after Ryan was convicted on charges of corruption. Only a truly out-of-touch Republican politician would publically decry Ryan’s conviction as Claar did.
  • Claar has amassed a huge political war-chest way out of proportion for the mayor of a medium-sized town, Bolingbrook, with a population under 100,000. “Nearly half of his donations came from companies and individuals who have done business with Bolingbrook,” the Chicago Tribune reported. Using his own PAC’s money, Claar has taken trips to China and India — junkets that would be difficult to rationalize for a U.S. Congressman much less for the mayor of a suburban Chicago city.
  • Claar has embraced pay-to-play politics and the Combine – precisely the conduct that identifies Republicans with the same sort of corruption that has soured voters on the Democrats.
  • Claar has given campaign contributions to Democrats.

Mayor Claar’s record is all too typical of Illinois politics, and creates the sort of spectacle that has made “Illinois” synonymous with corruption and the butt of countless jokes across the nation. I believe Republicans can do better. We need to reform the Republican Party, to return it to the conservative values of Ronald Reagan. We need to end “pay-to-play,” not raise it to a new art form! 

But most of all, Illinois Republicans need to return to a standard of integrity, and thereby inspire voters to stand proudly again as citizens of the “Land of Lincoln.” We must not be the Democrat-lite Party. As your Central Committeeman, I will promote conservative solutions and work tirelessly for reform and transparency in the IL-GOP — and fight for your right to elect leaders who are conservative and honest. I will work to bring transparency to the party as a means to end the corruption that has made the IL-GOP an also-ran in election after depressing election.
Please vote for me, Peter LaBarbera, a conservative, independent-minded Reagan Republican, as your State Central Committeeman for the 13th Congressional District. Thank you.