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19th Ward GOP Committeeman Bounced For Previously Voting As A Democrat

By Howard Ludwig | April 14, 2016 8:22am | Updated on April 15, 2016 10:26am
 Steven Graves, of Mount Greenwood, was one of 13 Republican ward committeeman who were expelled Wednesday by the Cook County and Chicago Republican parties .
Steven Graves, of Mount Greenwood, was one of 13 Republican ward committeeman who were expelled Wednesday by the Cook County and Chicago Republican parties .
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MOUNT GREENWOOD — 19th Ward Republican committeeman Steven Graves vowed Thursday morning to fight his expulsion from the Cook County and Chicago Republican parties.

Graves, a Mount Greenwood resident and real estate agent on the Far Southwest Side, was among 13 GOP ward bosses who were ousted by the party brass at a meeting Wednesday night at Athena Restaurant in Greektown.

A former Democrat, Graves was elected in the primary election on March 15. He defeated fellow Mount Greenwood resident Danny Carbol for the four-year, unpaid post.

"I can't imagine any judge arbitrarily letting [city and county Republicans] overturn an election," said Graves, who brought a lawyer to the meeting and plans to file an injunction in the coming days.

Graves was removed from the position because GOP bylaws now prohibit anyone from holding a leadership position in the party if they've voted in a Democratic primary in the previous eight years, Chicago Republican Party Chairman Chris Cleveland said Thursday morning.

"Graves is a lifelong Democrat, having pulled his first Republican ballot in 2014. He also served as a Democrat precinct captain," Cleveland said via email.

Graves doesn't deny his past, saying Ronald Reagan was once a Democrat, too. But he claims to have changed his stripes in recent years, drawn to the Republican side by their efforts to fund the military, lower taxes, shrink the size of government and stand behind the anti-abortion movement.

As evidence of his dedication to the party, Graves pointed to his 19th Ward GOP website, which he launched in the in the wake of the primary election. The election saw a significant uptick in Republican ballots pulled by 19th Ward voters.

"What am I going to do with the Republican voters out here? Put them on hold for six months?" Graves said of his status while fighting the surprise ruling handed down Wednesday night.

Cleveland said Graves "will get nowhere with a challenge," and said Republican party officials will begin the process of appointing a replacement shortly.

Meanwhile, Graves said he received an email Wednesday from Cleveland and Aaron Del Mar, Cook County Republican Party chairman. The letter — dated Tuesday — states that the group's bylaws were changed on March 9.

News of these changes that suddenly excluded Graves from his elected post came as a shock. In fact, he believed meeting Wednesday night was going to be an opportunity to put differences aside.

"I'm thinking he was inviting me to the party for the first time," said Graves, who also said he's reached out to Cleveland three times to no avail with issues related to the 19th Ward and the lead up to the presidential election in November.

Republicans framed the rule change as a way to clean house in an effort to "end Democrat control over several Republican ward organizations," according to a news release Cleveland issued Wednesday afternoon.

"It's a new era for aggressive Republican action against Chicago Democrats. We've had enough of the corruption," Cleveland said in a release.

The Republican written statement went on to claim GOP committeemen in the 13th and 23rd wards were planted in those races by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Democrat. In an other incident in the 20th Ward, the party claims the GOP committeeman is actually the mother of the Democrat committeeman.

Another of the expelled committeemen was said to have "committed multiple felonies, including solicitation of murder," the statement said.

Graves said he was not planted by Madigan or anyone else. He believes the move is meant to get him to drop out of his position and allow party leaders to appoint his opponent or another GOP loyalist.

"It's so un-American," he said.

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