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The Strangely Ecumenical Liz Gorman

Bill Dwyer 27 November 2007 3 Comments

The term “ecumenical,” defined as “tending to support and encourage unity between the various types of the Christian religion,” has often been applied to governance. After all, government tends to work best when ecumenical principles at least season its processes.

Cook County Republican Party Chairman Elizabeth “Liz” Gorman appears more than willing to routinely accommodate Democrats. If only she would spare some of that ecumenical fervor for her own political party. It certainly could use more unity.

With the debacle in the Democratic controlled state house and Governor’s mansion, the exposure of gross mismanagement of the CTA and other agencies under Mayor Richard Daley, and Todd Stroger exhibiting a stunning amalgam of ineptness and arrogance as he shafts taxpayers for the benefit of his inner circle at the Cook County building, you’d think that county Republicans would see a chance to finally begin breaking the hammerlock Democrats have developed on Illinois governance. And some have.

“This is our chance to educate the public on what is wrong with Cook County and build toward future domination of Cook County. Yes, it is possible,” McLean County Recorder of Deeds Lee Newcom wrote last February in the Illinois Review.

But Newcom, who’s also a former President of the United Republican Fund, doesn’t direct the affairs of the Cook County GOP. Gorman does, at least for now. And if Cook County ever becomes even mildly red, it won’t happen under her watch. Gorman, who’s also 17th District Cook County Commissioner, appears to be far more concerned with empire building than with party building, with currying favor with powerful Democrats than with improving her party’s 2008 election prospects.

A primary duty of a county party chairman, Newcom would agree, is to get qualified candidates slated for office. The Democrats have a set general election slate, with the exception of the state’s attorney race, which has four announced primary candidates. With Gorman at the helm, Cook County Republicans haven’t even been able to find a candidate to run against a fading second rater like Cook County Recorder of Deeds Eugene Moore. They have, however, inexplicably been working to stop the one Republican who has a real chance to win- Tony Peraica.

Peraica tallied historically high vote totals in last year’s County Board President race, garnering nearly 61 percent in the suburbs, winning a third of all city wards and near majorities in many others. Peraica got over 160,000 more votes than the last Republican to run for county board president, despite running against a Democratic tide that swamped most every other Republican.

Gorman and others insist that there’s good reason to question Peraica’s motives and behaviors, that he has lots of baggage. Peraica, they say, is a bully, a tyrant who “doesn’t play well with others,” a misogynist, and a Republican by opportunity, not choice.

Whether any of that’s true, no one can deny Peraica’s also a gifted political infighter, a skill set one would think Cook County Republicans would value, not disparage.

In a letter dated August 15, 2006, Gorman all but flatly refused to offer Peraica support.

“There are many issues that need discussion before I could attach my name to your candidacy,” she wrote.

Political campaigns aren’t fought solely on the stump before television cameras and reporter’s microphones. They’re waged via emails to elected officials and tips to reporters. With whispering campaigns and deftly delivered slices to the skin.

An unapologetic political street fighter, Peraica is familiar with such tactics, having had to engage routinely in close quarter combat with supposed Republican loyalists. His party enemies dumped major resources into the Lyons Township Republican committeeman race in an effort to prop up a 28 year old sandwich shop owner.

When Peraica took out Democratic Melrose Park Mayor Ron Serpico, a political eye gouger if there ever was one, in the 2003 general election for a seat on the county board, he didn’t do it while referring to a Boy Scout handbook.

As far as motives and baggage are concerned, voters might be interested in delving into Gorman’s motives for opposing Peraica. Her own political and personal baggage requires a team of Pullman porters to tote about.

Gorman’s first press release in February as the new Cook County GOP chairman was sent out by Sean Howard — the former Stroger spokesperson and a well-known Democrat operative.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the GOP chairman worked out a sweet heart deal with Democratic Orland Hills mayor Kyle Hastings a couple years back for district office space in the Orland Hills village hall for a reported $10 a year. Later, Gorman voted with Cook County Board Democrats to unseat Republican Carl Hansen and replace him with herself as chair of the county appointment committee. The ecumenical Gorman then used that position to appoint Hastings to the PACE board, a post that pays $10,000 a year for ten annual meetings.

Gorman denies she’s playing a role in undercutting Peraica. She recently told the Daily Southtown’s Kristin McQueary she wouldn’t get involved with the GOP slating process for state’s attorney. Perhaps Gorman meant to say she wouldn’t get involved with the slating process for any other county office but the State’s Attorney.

After failing to get higher profile Republicans to take on Peraica– none were willing to play the part of sacrificial lamb and see a humiliating defeat splashed on their political resume– primary petitions were circulated for Ed Barron, a former assistant state’s attorney. Some by Gorman, who filed 11 petition sheets with 162 signatures endorsing Barron. Her husband, Gerald Gorman, filed 12 sheets bearing 154 signatures. Throw in the 58 signatures Liz’s sister Carolyn Doody and her assistant Wood gathered, and you’ve accounted for upwards of 10 percent of the signatures Barron submitted for his candidacy.

That’s hardly a ringing endorsement, but it’s not neutrality, either.

A nasty mudslinging GOP State’s Attorney primary could only help the Democrats, and that’s precisely the point. Barron will almost certainly lose, but Gorman and other faux Republicans aren’t running to win- they’re running Barron as a proxy to continue their campaign to cut and bruise and soil Peraica and force him to spend money in the primary.

What has all the earmarks of a smear campaign that started with a September 12 Sun-Times article in which she stated that her assistant Wood received harassing calls from a one-time Peraica volunteer names Fred Ichniowski. Gorman, the piece stated, “notified police only after Ichnowski grew more angry and vulgar in February as the board was in a budget battle and she ran for GOP chairman.”

However, 14 pages of police reports paint a different picture. An Orland Hills detective noted “Woods only wanted the incident documented and will re-contact the police if further calls are received.”

Ichnowski must have grown more angry and vulgar very quickly, since the only offending calls were made on February 27 and February 28. The first complaint was filed with the Orland Hills Police Department a full month later on March 30. No more calls were reported, and that would have been the end of it. But on July 18, nearly five months after Ichnowski’s last call, Gorman suddenly decided to file a complaint with the Cook County Sheriff, accusing him of “intimidation of a public official,” a felony. The state’s attorney office reviewed the case and declined to charge Ichniowski with a felony, reclassifying it to disorderly conduct-telephone harassment.

Oddly, when Gorman finally decided she was so terribly offended by Ichniowski’s admittedly ignorant conduct, she phoned Palos Township committeeman Lee Roupas, not Peraica, most likely because she knew Ichniowski now worked for Roupas. That inconvenient fact was glossed over as Peraica was made to look the heavy.

This is not first time Liz Gorman and her husband Gerald have made serious accusations against someone. Gorman, who is currently studying for an MBA from Notre Dame, might be better off pursuing a law degree at the rate she and Gerald are getting hauled into court and losing.

Several years ago the Gormans accused Daimler Chrysler of racism in their dealings with black customers at the Gorman’s two car dealerships. Daimler Chrysler slapped them with a counter suit, and the Gorman’s were hit with a total of $4,245,000 in legal judgments, including nearly $900,000 in Daimler Chrysler’s legal bills.

The Gormans are currently appealing. Final arguments were made in September. They’d best pray they prevail, because the $4.25 million judgment includes accruing interest, and doesn’t include their own attorney’s fees.

Speaking of the Gorman’s lawyers, one of them, the recently indicted “Fast Eddie” Vrdolyak, was thrown off the case after a judge ruled that he’d had improper communications with a potential plaintiff in a similar case. Vrdolyak, who is Liz Gorman’s political mentor, is also the “business associate” who, while acting as lead counsel in the lawsuit against Chrysler, loaned $750,000 to one of the Gorman’s auto dealerships. Vrdolyak declined to characterize the $750,000 as a loan, but also forgot to mention that the Gorman’s agreed to pay him $10,000 a month for 84 months.

The federal case is only the largest court settlement against the Gormans. They’ve been slapped with another $1.73 million in total from three county circuit court suits, among others, in 2004 and 2005.

Now for full disclosure, something you’re not likely to ever get from Liz Gorman. Though I voted Peraica for County Board President, I’m not completely one hundred percent certain I’ll vote for him next November. I’m a registered Democrat, though that status grows shakier and shakier, at least at the local level.

It’s up to Republican primary voters to decide this February whether they buy Gorman’s contention that Ed Barron is not merely a stalking horse.

An election of equal import is scheduled for two months later, when the 30 suburban and 50 city Republican committeemen sit down to elect a county chairman to a two-year term. Who ever they choose, let’s hope it’s someone willing and able to actually work in the best interests of their own party. Democrat or not, I want a strong, revitalized Republican county party that will counter balance the Democrat’s unfettered power and the damage that has wrought.

Let the voters be ecumenical– political party leaders should be strictly partisan and restrict any “ecumenical” impulses to their own party.

When they don’t, voters in general and township and ward committeemen in particular should.


Bill Dwyer is a regular political columnist for The Chicago Daily Observer.


  • Dan Kelley (author) said:

    Not to be overlooked is the fact that several of Liz Gorman’s in-laws are active Democrats. Brother-in-law, Bob Gorman, was a long time aide to Commissioner Robert Shaw at the Board of Review. His wife (Joyce Murphy Gorman) is a Circuit Court Judge and is currently running for the Appellate Court. Party labels do not mean too much to some who see politics simply as a business.

  • Isa Almisry (author) said:

    You forgot the rest of the in-laws and blood relations:

    Brother Larry M. Doody ran for Alderman and then backed Haithcock:both moves went down in flames.

    Brother Larry is married to Connie Murphy, daughter of Morgan Murphy Jr., ex-congressman who got in on the sweet heart deal at the Millenium Park Cafe. He also was convicted of fraud, along with son Morgan III, in Wisconsin, a deal going back to the early 80s which involved Vrdolyak and the port guy Serpico. (It eventually became Oprah’s studio). Morgan also was close pals with Rostenkowski.

    Morgan III’s wife, Lisa Ruble Murphy, drew the ward map for the city, and spent a good portion of the 90s explaining it and herself in federal court. She stated she had “no idea” was she was unopposed in her race for the bench.

  • Linda White said:

    Lest we forget the shenanigans that Mrs. Gorman has been associated with. I certainly hope you will all think back to these things when you vote for our ORLAND PARK TRUSTEES and keep in mind that LIZ is the supporter of ‘Fiscal Voice of Orland’ candidates. Can anyone trust Liz’s judgement as to who is fiscally responsible??? I dare say her track record says NOT HER LOUD AND CLEAR!

    While other of our Chicago Suburbs are laying off and firing Police Officers and Fire Fighters, Orland Park’s current team of Trustees have kept us above water. We are in a struggling economy, yet we are not facing major tax increases or scary foreclosure numbers as some of our neighboring municipalities according to the reports in the Southtown economist. Why would we want to break up the team that has been keeping our Village on a good road? We shouldn’t and I WILL NOT!

    I hope all my fellow residents will look back and remember how well run OUR Village has been and run the other way from those that can not practice what they preach! I support the TOP 3 CANDIDATES for TRUSTEE in Orland Park; PAT GIRA, ED SCHUSSLER, AND CAROLE GRIFFIN RUZICH. For the sake of the Village I am PROUD to call home I hope you will too.

    Linda White

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