Liz Gorman, the Orland Township GOP Committeeman and Cook County Commissioner, and I did not get along originally. We were at odds until she showed up at a public discussion about fighting rising taxes and I got a chance to understand her.
I realized Gorman opposed rising taxes as much as I did. I realized she was a “centrist” willing to push back on extremists not just in the Democratic Party on the far left, but also in the Republican Party on the far right.
Gorman turned out to be the real deal when, in 2008, she became the inspiration for the fight against the one percent sales tax increase that then County Board President Todd Stroger proposed to off-set the county’s wasteful spending.
Gorman fought against the sales tax hike and when it passed with the support of Chicago’s Democratic board members, she led a rebellion to repeal the tax until it was finally gone.
She was also a critical cornerstone of commonsense in renovating the Republican party in Cook County.
Let’s face it, for a long time, “Republicans” were non-existent in Cook County, which is the foundation of the Democratic Party’s control of the state.
What made Gorman different? She had common sense. Her priority wasn’t political ideology, it was commitment to the citizens that she represented.
She didn’t mind taking on the Democrats, but she also didn’t mind taking on the Republicans -- including the far right wing like the Tea Party and others who believed extremism was the key to defeating the Democrats – a losing cause that anyone with common sense would recognize.
In the battle for Governor, Gorman recognized most Democrats were disappointed in the failings of Gov. Pat Quinn, who took office as the running mate of disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Quinn might have won re-election, except that Gorman stepped up to the Republican plate and threw her weight behind an unknown businessman, Bruce Rauner.
Forget about the reality of Illinois -- no single person can resolve the state’s financial troubles, a challenge Rauner now faces. But last year, the choice for Republicans was to support candidates who toed the party ideology or support candidates who used their brains, had common sense and were not afraid to be honest.
Had it not been for Gorman organizing suburban Cook County behind Rauner, Quinn would have easily trounced the traditional Republican Party choices, most of whom were all decent people. Rauner won office, thanks to Gorman.
Sadly, power goes to the heads of even the best leaders, and Rauner stumbled. His first mistake was to not grab Gorman and put her in a top cabinet position. I knew it was over for him then.
And I knew it was over for the taxpayers, too.
Eventually, after serving in her fourth term on the county board, more than 13 years in public service, Gorman stepped down to take a job in the private sector with a Fortune 100 corporation, putting the interests of her family first.
But her loss pretty much signaled an end to the feistiness that blocked Stroger.
At the same meeting in which she resigned, the County Board approved a 1 percent sales hike. Gorman voted “present” only out of respect for Board President Toni Preckwinkle and to not saddle her successor with someone else’s vote. She believes Preckwinkle can solve the county’s financial problems, and then repeal the tax hike.
The following week, Gorman was succeeded by Palos businessman Sean Morrison, who has big shoes to fill but has a strong record of leadership in Palos Township.