The Illinois Republican Party says Democrats' failure to hold a state convention is another sign of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s top-down approach to political power.

Nick Klitzing, executive director of the Illinois Republican Party, said state conventions are a way for political parties to hear from their grass-root members. Klitzing said the state Democratic Party's failure to hold a convention this year sends a bad signal.

“I think it says a lot about the state of our politics and the state of the Democratic Party in Illinois that Mike Madigan and his key leadership doesn’t believe that they have any need to listen to the grass roots of the Democratic Party,” Klitzing said.

The Illinois Republican Party held its state convention in May. The  Illinois Libertarian Party also held one this year.
Steve Brown, spokesman for the Illinois Democratic Party as well as Madigan, said he couldn’t recall the last time the state Democrats held a convention.

A measure on Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk would make state conventions for political parties optional.

Klitzing said the legislation is a sign of Madigan’s power.

“It’s really easy for Speaker Madigan and the Democratic Party establishment to just eliminate the need to have a state convention all together because what they say goes, and I think that’s really unfortunate,” Klitzing said.  

Brown didn’t address the GOP’s criticism. Instead he said Republicans are poorly informed and trying to escape presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Brian Gaines, a political science professor at the University of Illinois, said conventions can shed light on the health of a political party. “It might get them a little extra press. That could be good or bad if the party is divided. The press could really emphasize if there’s an unhappy faction."

But Gaines said there’s not enough study on the true impact of conventions on grass-roots party activists.

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