The Oak Park Township Republican Party will sponsor a public meeting and candidate forum on Jan. 28. The Saturday meeting, which will take place in the Veteran’s Room of the Oak Park Public Library, 834 Lake St., from 9 to 11 a.m., will also serve as an opportunity for local residents to meet the recently appointed leadership of the local Republican Party. That group is led by new Committeeman Richard J. Willis, who was appointed to the post by Cook County Republican Party Chairman Gary Skoien in early November.

Willis has been active in Republican politics in the village since before he moved here 21 years ago. At the time of his appointment, a Republican official said ideology was less important in Willis’ the appointment than demonstrated capacity and willingness to actively build an effective organization. “You’ve got to get election judges and petitions out,” said Tom Swift in November.

Willis said he’s working to do just that, as well as attract those Oak Park swing voters who have leaned Republican in the past. There are, he estimated Tuesday, “at least 1,000” such voters. The upcoming meeting will be the first public display of Willis’ ability to attract those voters to the GOP tent and to mobilize the faithful.

“Jan. 28 is an opportunity for all Oak Parkers to see the candidates or their representative,” said Willis, who added that he recently sent a mailing out to 1,600 registered Oak Park Republicans.

The Jan. 28 meeting will start with coffee and pastries, followed by the introduction of local GOP leadership and a presentation of an organizational overview. After a brief recess, the candidate forum will be held.

Among those candidates for state and county office invited to participate are gubernatorial candidates Judy Baar Topinka, Ron Gidwitz, and Jim Oberweis; Cook County Board president candidate Tony Peraica; 39th District senatorial candidate Jim Rowe; treasurer candidate Christine Radogno; and comptroller candidate Carole Pankau. Oberweis has already confirmed he’ll be present Jan. 28.

Willis, who has been working on calling each Republican election judge personally, also noted that the township GOP is seeking individuals interested in serving as Republican election judges for the Primary election on March 21. The posts require being at a local polling place throughout election day, as well as attending a two-hour training session. Volunteers are paid a total of $150 for their time.

Anyone interested can contact Willis at 524-8834, or e-mail

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