Madison County GOP precinct committee men and women voted for current chairman Jeremy Plank over challenger, county board Chairman Kurt Prenzler, by a five point margin - 52.5 to 47.5 percent - at last week's party convention.
Plank said his his first order of business following the April 18 convention was to "mend fences" among rank and file Republicans.
"As much as possible, I don't want to see us splintered," Plank said. "We have to do the best we can going into the general election. We have to remember that we're not the ones we should be focused on."
County conventions are held every four years across the state for the purpose of electing county party chairpersons as well as state central committee members in each of the state’s 18 congressional districts, who then elect the state party chairperson.
While chairmanships appear settled across the state, the election of the 15th Congressional District state central committeeman - between incumbent Bob Winchester or State Sen. Chapin Rose - remains uncertain.
The congressional district includes all or part of 33 southern Illinois counties and is led by Congressman John Shimkus of Collinsville.
Plank said that Madison County precinct committee men and women chose Winchester over Rose by a margin of approximately 60 to 40 percent, and then as a sign of unity voted by acclamation to place 100 percent of the county's vote in favor of Winchester.
At stake in the controversy is control of the Illinois Republican Party and whether Gov. Bruce Rauner - fresh from an intense primary battle with conservative state Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) - can exert influence over it.
According to the SE Illinois News, Rauner and current state GOP Chairman Timothy Schneider declared victory after last Wednesday's convention.
"But did they actually win?" the report states.
Plank said Monday morning that a winner has still not been declared.
The SE Illinois News report indicates that Schneider recruited Rose to challenge Winchester, a Rauner critic who supported Ives in the March primary. It further states that Rose supports Schneider for another four year term, while Winchester does not.
With the Madison County GOP leadership question settled, Plank said his plan for the general election is to focus on judicial and county board races, as well growing the ranks in the county party.
"We want to find people who want to be active, and have a vested interest in our brand," he said.
On judicial races, Plank said he's experienced, having helped John Barberis of St. Jacob first get elected Madison County circuit judge in 2014 and then to the Fifth District Appellate Court in 2016.
The focus of this year's judicial races for Plank includes a vacancy on the Fifth District in which Republican David Overstreet will face Belleville attorney Kevin Hoerner. There are also vacancies at the Third Judicial Circuit in which sitting Judge David Dugan will face Maryville attorney Marc Parker and Edwardsville attorney Mark Rabe will face sitting Judge Sarah Smith.
Plank said he plans not only to defend challenges to Republican county board seats, but to grow the majority on the board, which is currently 15 Republicans to 13 Democrats to one Independent. The board turned Republican for the first time in many decades in 2016.
"The last century belonged to Democrats, the next one to Republicans," he said
One of the seats Republicans hope to pick up is currently held by Liz Dalton (D) in the Democrat-leaning District 28 in Collinsville
Republican Nancy Moss, a former alderman of Collinsville, will face Dalton in November. Moss had served as spokesperson for a group that opposed a 1 percent sales tax increase in the March primary election. The referendum was soundly defeated last month, the third time such a proposal was rejected by Madison County voters in seven years.
"It been a historically Democratic seat," Plank said. "But the tide is turning and Nancy is a quality candidate."