Editor’s note: The update to this article involved a slight change to the wording of a quote.
As election rallies go, last night’s Republican rally held at the Oak Park Country Club was a pretty low key affair. No flags, no bunting, no music, not even a microphone. But for the 100 or so local Republicans who showed up it was enough to be with like minded folks, something especially welcome for that rare species, an Oak Park Republican.
Pat Fiorini and his wife Marcia have lived in Oak Park for 34 years.
“I’m surrounded by Democrats and socialists,” Pat Fiorini said. “They disagree with me on everything and think I’m crazy.”
Marcia Fiorini said it was a relief to see other local Republicans.
“I was beginning to wonder if they existed around here,” Marcia Fiorini said.
Former Wednesday Journal columnist Tom Carraher said when he was growing up Oak Park was a Republican town.
“That’s how I was brought up,” Carraher said. “That’s how Oak Park was in the 70’s when I was raised.”
Carraher too said that it was reassuring to see other Republicans.
“We make jokes about having a meeting in a phone booth, but when you see something like tonight you know there are a lot more of us than you think,” Carraher said.
The rally was an annual event that River Forest Township Republican Committeeman Tom Cronin has been holding since he was elected committeeman in 2006.
This year Cronin decided to co-host the event with new Oak Park Township Republican Committeewoman Linda Tibensky who was named to her post this summer after no one ran for the office in February’s primary election.
Tibensky, a retired Spanish teacher who taught at Oak Park and River Forest High School, said her new post has been a challenge.
“It’s been a struggle, a challenge actually,” Tibensky said. “I really think we can get us back on track again and build from the ground up and have a good, strong Republican Party. I think we need at least a two party system in this country. That’s what democracy is all about.”
Tibensky predicted that Republicans would do very well in the election on Tuesday.
“The public of Illinois is mad and they want that change,” Tibensky said.
At the gathering Cronin recognized the fourth annual Walsh Service Award Recipients. Receiving the award — named after Cronin’s predecessor former state senator Dick Walsh — were former River Forest Village President Frank Paris and former River Forest village trustee and noted tennis instructor Nancy Dillon. Paris was at his Florida home and unable to attend the event. But Dillon was present to accept her plaque.
The crowd also heard from Congressman Peter Roskam (R-6th District) and a number of Republican candidates including state treasurer candidate Dan Rutherford; 7th district congressional candidate Mark Weiman, a Chicago dentist challenging incumbent Danny Davis in a heavily Democratic district; state attorney general candidate Steve Kim and Elmwood Park mayor and Cook County Board Commissioner Peter Silvestri.
Roskam accused Democrats of “trying to borrow and spend their way to prosperity” as he railed against the huge federal budget deficit.
He was confident Republicans would do very well on Tuesday.
“This cake is baked,” Roskam said. “The American public is going to say to President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid, this is enough.”
The rally, which had more of an atmosphere of a wedding reception or birthday party, was held in the casual basement bar and grill room of the ornate country club on Thatcher Road. Attendees munched on cheese, crackers, vegetables and meatballs and enjoyed the open bar.
Cronin said the country club was simply a convenient place to hold the annual event and not symbolic of the Republicans being a party just for the rich.
“I hope a lot of those prejudices and stereotypes are gone, long gone,” Cronin said. “They should be.”
Practical considerations made the country club the best place for the event Cronin said.
“This is just a great location for Oak Park and River Forest,” Cronin said. “There aren’t that many places that are as convenient and simple with parking. There’s just a lot of practical issues that come into play when you’re planning an event. We like to serve a little food.”
Bob Gale, a 44 year resident of River Forest said the location of the event influenced his decision to attend although he also wanted to be there because Nancy Dillon taught him, as she did perhaps thousands of others, how to play tennis.
“Although I live a few blocks from here I’ve never been here,” Gale said. “I really wanted to see this place.”
The gathered Republicans were optimistic about Tuesday’s election.
“I think it’s going to be a great Tuesday for us,” Carraher said. “I really do.”
Brady fundraiser upstairs
At the same time the rally was taking place there was a small private fundraiser for GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady being held in a side room on the main floor of the Oak Park Country Club. Cronin said that he was not informed by the Brady campaign that the fundraiser was taking place.
The rally was free of charge and invitations were sent out to more than 1,300 local Republicans.