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Kelly announces DPI reelection as Houlihan proxy fight intensifies

Tuesday, May 31, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Robin Kelly’s DPI reelection announcement…

Matteson, IL, May 31, 2022-Today, Rep. Robin Kelly announced she will run for re-election as Chair of the Democratic Party of Illinois.

“Today, I am honored and excited to announce I will be running for re-election as Chair of the Democratic Party of Illinois,” said DPI Chair Rep. Robin Kelly. “I couldn’t be prouder of the progress we’ve made together in the last fourteen months and with a full slate of fantastic Democratic candidates gearing up for this fall’s midterm election, now is the time to reaffirm our commitment to a party that is inclusive, transparent, and active in everything we do. I ask all State Central Committee candidates to join me as we continue to fight for Democratic values for all in Illinois.”

Chair Kelly was elected in March 2021 as the first woman chair and first Black chair in DPI history. Since her historic election, Chair Kelly has overhauled the party, reorganizing the party structure to bring in new voices while hiring a new team of staff and vendors as well as instituting a successful new fundraising structure.

“Before I was elected, party power in Illinois was concentrated in the hands of too few people,” said Chair Kelly. “Now, not only do diverse voices guide our work, but I am proud to show up for Democrats in every corner of Illinois. We need a party chair who listens to others, works collaboratively, and never forgets that it is the Democratic voters of this state who must ultimately guide our work for the benefit of all Democratic nominees. I humbly ask for a full term to continue our work together toward these goals.”

Under Chair Kelly’s leadership, the Democratic Party of Illinois has taken significant steps in modernizing the party and providing foundational services common among other state parties nationwide. Accomplishments include:

    • Raised more than $1.9 million in federal and non-federal money under a new, diversified fundraising structure including a grassroots donor program, which bolsters the Party’s pre-Coordinated campaign budget to over $4.2 million cash on hand.
    • Lowered Party administrative costs to save tens of thousands of dollars annually while bringing in more specific-to-state party expertise.
    • Expanded data and technology trainings for candidates, staff, and activists every month, plus a brand-new candidate training program run in conjunction with the Illinois Democratic County Chairs’ Association to focus on building the strongest bench of candidates statewide.
    • Built out a traditional and social media outreach strategy to center the DPI as the standard-bearer of the Democratic message while holding Republicans accountable, including building an email list from scratch of more than 100,000 people (and growing) to reach Democratic voters where they are.
    • Building out a statewide organizing team recruiting and connecting volunteers with local campaigns and party organizations.
    • Re-engaged with the national Democratic Party, including the election of Chair Kelly as a representative of the Midwest Caucus to the Executive Committee of the DNC, support for the bid for the 2024 Democratic National Convention, and an application for Illinois to be included as a 2024 early state primary.

The chair of the Democratic Party of Illinois is elected by a weighted vote of the Democratic State Central Committee, who are individually elected in the June 28 primary. The chair must be a sitting State Central Committeeperson. Chair Kelly has no opposition in her re-election campaign as State Central Committeeperson from Illinois’ Second Congressional District.

* Politico

Kelly was elected party chair in 2021 after Michael Madigan stepped down from his 23-year reign. Kelly defeated Chicago Ald. Michelle Harris for the job, creating some intraparty tension that continues to bubble up. Kelly was backed by Sen. Dick Durbin, and Harris was endorsed by Gov. JB Pritzker.

For months there was buzz that the relationships between Kelly and Pritzker, and Durbin and Pritzker, were chilly — though all parties were publicly professional about it all (maybe through gritted teeth).

And now the top party job is up for grabs again.

Pritzker has enlisted former Deputy Gov. Dan Hynes to recruit allies to run for seats on the Democratic Central Committee. They will be elected during the June 28 primary. Winners will then pick the party chair. […]

Pritzker has given $20,000 to Liz Brown-Reeves, a former Madigan aide turned lobbyist, for her race to join the Democratic Central Committee in a contest against Katherine Daniels, the sitting chair of the Adams County Democrats. Daniels is endorsed by the Sangamon County Democratic Party, which is headed by longtime Durbin ally Bill Houlihan.

The Sangamon County party is meeting this week to try to overturn that endorsement of Adams County resident Katherine Daniels. Stay tuned.

* In the meantime, Brown-Reeves has reported raising more than $41K so far and is putting that money to work. She already sent out one mailer featuring the governor, and here’s her second piece…

* And she lined up Secretary White’s endorsement…

As early voting begins for the June 28th primary, Secretary of State Jesse White endorsed Liz Brown-Reeves (D-Springfield) for Democratic State Central Committee in the 15th Congressional District.

“I have known Liz since she was a college student at SIU Carbondale and have followed her professional career in Springfield for the last twenty-two years. It’s extremely important to have strong, experienced Democrats in our party that have a comprehensive knowledge of downstate politics,” said Secretary of State Jesse White. “Liz is a go-getter and hard worker. Her enthusiasm is infectious and is much needed in our party, especially downstate. Liz has dedicated her life to helping elect Democrats and she will be a significant addition to the Democratic Party of Illinois,”

Secretary White joins the long list of supporters for Liz Brown-Reeves that includes Governor JB Pritzker, former Senator Andy Manar, Senator Doris Turner, former State Representative Julie Curry and House Assistant Majority Leader Jay Hoffman.

“Jesse White is a hero in Illinois politics. His groundbreaking, people-first approach has been the model in Illinois state government. To receive the endorsement of Secretary White is a tremendous honor and I vow to continue to his legacy in every part of Illinois - including the reddest ones in our State,” said Liz Brown-Reeves.

More information on Liz and her campaign can be found at

A mailer featuring White is forthcoming.

Needless to say, this much time, energy and money going into a state central committeeperson race is extraordinarily rare. As an example, Gov. Pritzker has so far only given one committee, Friends of Chakena Perry, more money than Brown. Legislators with primaries received $5K.


  1. - OH - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 9:23 am:

    I mean, I guess there’s some value in controlling the state party, but certainly not a lot. Is it worth fighting over — particularly if you’re JB and have enough cash to creat your own reality and not worry about postage discounts?

  2. - vern - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 9:49 am:

    I really hope for everyone’s sake that this is an isolated race. If Pritzker is going to get involved in a lot of these races he’d be making an enormous mistake.

    First, some of these committeemen candidates have competitive races for seats that actually matter. Some of them only ran for committeeman in the first place to open an extra PAC and increase name ID. One of Pritzker and Harris’ biggest supporters was John Cullerton, but Rob Martwick is on the ballot against him. Is Pritzker really going to do anything that takes votes away from Martwick? That would be crazy.

    Second, it’s a month before the primary ends. A coordinated campaign needs to come together in the next 6-8 weeks. Win or lose, picking a series of statewide intraparty fights isn’t gonna get anyone in the mood to coordinate.

    Last, there are going to be spiraling unpredictable consequences. Pritzker isn’t exactly famous for a detailed knowledge of regional party politics. Is he really prepared to make a long list of permanent enemies in county parties, local governments and the legislature? Even if he gets control of the state party, is it worth ruffling all those feathers?

  3. - McGuppin - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 9:55 am:

    So Dems in Illinois are making a bid to host the Democratic National Convention in 2024, but they can’t avoid a silly and unnecessary fight for control of their own State Party. Seems shortsighted to me. Don’t they know the DNC is watching?

  4. - Responsa - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 9:57 am:

    I give up trying to understand the dynamics of what’s going on here.

  5. - Arsenal - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 10:01 am:

    I’m not sure how much of a dog I have in this fight, but it sure seems to me like the Kelly experiment hasn’t paid off. I really thought they’d be able to figure out the fundraising thing, but they just simply failed.

    ==A coordinated campaign needs to come together in the next 6-8 weeks.==

    That’s actually not much of a problem. Pritzker has the cash and Durbin isn’t up this year, so give or take maybe a few state leg races all the real stakeholders can get on the same page pretty quick.

  6. - BigLou - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 10:01 am:

    Why is the gov so interested in a MWRD candidate?

  7. - Arsenal - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 10:14 am:

    ==Why is the gov so interested in a MWRD candidate? ==

    She used to work for him.

  8. - vern - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 10:22 am:

    === all the real stakeholders can get on the same page pretty quick ===

    All the “real” stakeholders are focused on legislative primaries or preparing for the general right now. They’ll notice if Pritzker seems to care more about the state central committee than either of those obviously more important priorities.

  9. - Amalia - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 10:30 am:

    Dan Hynes, thanks for helping with a huge waste of money. Think about spending the money in the general, when things will be harder than you think. State Central Committeepersons, MWRD, Board of Appeals recruiting and working for candidates IN THE PRIMARY, really so many stories behind the scenes and it is such a waste.

  10. - QuimbyIn2024 - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 10:33 am:

    If JB is serious about running for President someday - why kick so many hornets’ nests in his own state? Does he really think this is helping - especially ahead of the toughest midterms we’ve seen since 2010?

  11. - walker - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 10:34 am:

    @Vern makes some good points

    Most of the current candidates support generally accepted Dem principles, and are not especially aligned with either Pritzker or Durbin. They have worked for both.

    It might be too late to impact many races. Early voting has started in many locales.

  12. - Arsenal - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 11:11 am:

    ==They’ll notice if Pritzker seems to care more about the state central committee than either of those obviously more important priorities. ==

    They’ll notice, but what are they gonna do, *not* put their name on a mailer that someone else is paying for?

  13. - Touré's Latte - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 11:16 am:

    I had no idea the IDP was in such disarray had Kelly not announced her saving it.

  14. - vern - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 11:33 am:

    === what are they gonna do, *not* put their name on a mailer that someone else is paying for? ===

    Sure. There are plenty of places in this state with regular ticket-splitting voters. Some candidates in those areas might decide they don’t want to lend their name and the work that made that name to a governor who spent his summer working out grudges against beloved local party members. Coordinated campaigns are calculations that working together will get more votes for everyone than fighting over ticket-splitters. That calculation gets harder for candidates to make if the rest of the ticket doesn’t have a demonstrated commitment to party unity.

  15. - Just Saying - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 11:36 am:

    =Why is the gov so interested in a MWRD candidate?=

    Because it is a chance to undermine the Cook County Democratic Party, and for some reason he is deadset on undermining every freestanding Democratic party organization that could help him get reelected. The real question is… why does the gov seem more motivated to win an MWRD or State Central Committee race than he was for passing the fair tax amendment?

  16. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 11:57 am:

    ===why does the gov seem more motivated===


  17. - Arsenal - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 12:13 pm:

    ==There are plenty of places in this state with regular ticket-splitting voters.==

    But that’s a different issue. Yes, some candidates might benefit from not being seen as too close to the Governor or Duckworth or whoever, and thus may or may not participate in the coordinated campaign, but that’s independent of the state central committee races.

  18. - Back To The Future - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 12:56 pm:

    Pritzer’s support for candidates to insure he controls the State Democratic Party is a good reason to vote for Retired Army Major and Nurse Beverly Miles in the Democratic Primary.

  19. - Dem Unity - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 1:40 pm:

    If JB goes forward with spending this much time, energy, and money in primaries, he’s clearly not interested in building Dem Unity. Sad, and a dangerous gamble for a man with larger ambitions

  20. - My opinion - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 1:48 pm:

    For guys like Bill Houlihan and Mike Cabonargi it’s about jobs, favors, and endorsements. The people that run the party can hire their people, accrue and dole out favors, and have more control of endorsements. Their fight is local. Team JB is looking to build something that can complete with other state parties and bring some of Illinois’ victories to other states. Their fight is national.

    These guys waited years to take control of the state party. Imagine waiting all those years only to discover the new billionaire Governor and his people decided they wanted their own people. Each side has their own reasons for wanting control of the party and it is personal.

    In a year like this one the only thing that should matter is who can raise the most to pay all the bills that will come due if Democrats are going to be successful.

  21. - Arsenal - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 1:56 pm:

    ==If JB goes forward with spending this much time, energy, and money in primaries, he’s clearly not interested in building Dem Unity.==

    OTOH, it takes two to tango, so is it really on the Gov to stand down in the name of “unity”?

  22. - It's all so silly - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 2:02 pm:

    A big fight over a small job.

    If either JB or Durbin were acting rationally they would see that the prize for winning is in no way worth the potential embarrassment of losing. The fact that they’re still going at it confirms how personal this has become.

    And a spitting contest between the governor and senior senator is no way to show the DNC we’re capable of hosting the convention or moving up it the presidential primary queue.

  23. - Dem Unity - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 2:13 pm:

    It’s utterly childish to act vengefully towards other Democrats because the vote for party chair wasn’t unanimous. The days of central committee members being subjects to one man’s party rule/demands should’ve left with MJM, but if the Governor/his team want to continue incorrectly personalizing the vote for Robin Kelly as a direct attack on JB instead of a razor close decision that considered many factors, JB may well find they’ve created enemies out of friends and supporters. In that scenario, we all lose. I’ll say it again, Dem Unity

  24. - Arsenal - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 2:57 pm:

    ==It’s utterly childish to act vengefully towards other Democrats because the vote for party chair wasn’t unanimous.==

    Is that what’s happening, or are people who disagree with each other on how to run the state party running against each other?

    ==a razor close decision that considered many factors==

    One of those factors was “Can Robin Kelly raise money?” and it turns out her supporters were wrong on that one.

  25. - Red ghetto in a blue state - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 3:10 pm:

    Houlihan missed the mark bad on this one. If he wants an experienced, skilled, and capable seatmate. Daniel’s two years of experience, zero and 8 record in contested races, and 50 percent lose of committee persons in her county falls far short of what this district needs. Do better Bill

  26. - Former Downstater - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 3:49 pm:

    ==Their fight is local.==

    Personally, I’m looking forward to a DPI who does fight locally. We didn’t have that for years.

  27. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 3:51 pm:

    ===We didn’t have that for years===

    Yes you did. It was all about a single Chicago ward.

  28. - Clever Girl - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 3:55 pm:

    Can someone roll that tape of LBR at her local school board meeting losing her mind about wanting to go back to in person learning and calling the school board member “grandpa”?
    Interesting pick by JB.

  29. - Former Downstater - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 3:57 pm:

    ==Yes you did. It was all about a single Chicago ward.==

    Now it seems to be about a bunch of bruised egos from the Gov’s office.

  30. - Juvenal - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 4:06 pm:

    It is hilarious to hear the Durbin folks whine about how Liz Brown-Reeves is racking up the endorsements when Robin Kelly relied so heavily on endorsements from others to get where she is.

    Reeves has personally raised more money than Robin Kelly has raised for DPI. And if Kelly had any sense she would drop this proxy war, see Reeves as the asset she is, and support her candidacy.

  31. - Message received - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 5:27 pm:

    Juvenal @ 4:06 pm:

    == Robin Kelly relied so heavily on endorsements from others to get where she is. ==

    Saying the quiet part out loud again, Team JB.

    A lot of folks think Robin Kelly “got where she is” through hard work.

    And a lot more folks think Danny Hynes is the last person to be saying otherwise.

  32. - Kevin Gaither - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 6:41 pm:

    It was Houlihan’s bright idea to push his preferred candidate down the throats of the entire 15th District and nation, considering what’s at stake. He made all of these wild claims about a self-funded congressional candidate meeting after meeting after meeting that have not developed even one lemon that no one would bother making into the weakest lemon shakeup of the season.

    Huge missed opportunity to turn Reps Rodney Davis and Mary Miller into what the Republican Party has become: a worse than do nothing party, they take any problem, politicize it, fundraise on it while they drone on and on about negativity from town to town.

    It’s about time for a positive rural Illinois agenda. You won’t get that out of the Houlihan Democratic wing of the party.

  33. - SaulGoodman - Tuesday, May 31, 22 @ 10:56 pm:

    **Reeves has personally raised more money than Robin Kelly has raised for DPI.**

    LOL - tell us you know nothing about party fundraising without telling us.

    But, a hint to get you started: how much federal money has DPI raised?

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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