SPRINGFIELD – Illinois GOP Chairman Pat Brady resigned Tuesday, citing his wife's battle with cancer and his desire to focus on family after six tough years in Republican politics.
Opponents from within his party have persistently called for Brady to resign from the leading role he has held for two years. But in an interview with The Associated Press, he said he was not bowing to that pressure and that internal rifts worsened by 2012's poor election results had not influenced his decision.
"I've been going hard for six years. It's time to move on," he said.
Brady said his wife has been battling "very serious" cancer for two years and that he wanted to spend more time with her and their four children.
"It's time to focus on my wife and our kids," he said.
Social conservatives have called for Brady's removal for months, largely because he supported gay marriage when a bill to legalize it was before the Legislature earlier this year. They also cited Republicans' poor showing in last year's elections when Illinois Democrats won veto-proof majorities in both chambers of the Legislature and picked up seats in Congress.
Brady has survived two ouster attempts at party leadership meetings since March. Those efforts failed due to concerns that getting rid of Brady would reflect poorly on a party that's trying to appeal more to young voters and minorities by being more inclusive.
Speaking to reporters after the last attempt on April 13, Brady said he did not plan to seek another term after his expired next year. But he gave no indication he would resign just weeks later and emphasized again that the party needed fresh ideas.
"I think there are people in the party who don't necessarily agree with me, but the point is ... we're a party that welcomes all ideas," Brady said then. "You don't have to be exactly a platform Republican to be welcome in the party, and that's the direction we're taking the party."
Brady announced his resignation Tuesday in a letter to the state party's central committee. The letter made no mention of the party's internal divisions and he declined to discuss them in Tuesday's phone interview.
Brady did say that he thought the best thing for the party would be to choose a woman to replace him.
"I really think we need a different face than an old white guy," he said. "I think it's time for a woman."
The party said in a written statement Tuesday that Carol Smith Donovan, the current vice chairman, would serve as interim chairman until the State Central Committee selects a permanent replacement.
In his letter, Brady thanked all the GOP members of Illinois' congressional delegation and singled out U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, who remained among his supporters.
"In stepping down, I want to express thanks to my wife, Julie, and our four children," he wrote in the letter. "I am confident that no family of volunteers in this state has spent more time in victory centers and working for Republican candidates than my homegrown crew of volunteers."