A second candidate running for chair of the McLean County Democrats says she would tap into her expertise in organizational management to limit growing pains in a party still feeding off the election of President Donald Trump four years ago.
Susan O’Rourke is one of two nominees for McLean County Democratic Party chair on Wednesday. The other is Nikita Richards, who ran unsuccessfully for McLean County clerk in 2018 and announced her candidacy for party chair in January. Current party chair Erik Rankin is not seeking a second term as he runs for circuit clerk in November.
O’Rourke, now retired, worked at State Farm for 18 years and previously served on the Bloomington Public Library board, among other community involvement. She said she became active in politics after Trump’s election, helping local Democrats with events and fundraising. She and Richards are both precinct committeepeople.
O’Rourke, who has a relatively low profile in the party compared to Richards, said she’s running in part to give precinct committeepeople a choice when they vote for chair.
“As a longtime resident of McLean County and a Democrat, I don’t like elections where there’s only one choice,” O’Rourke said. “Our precinct people deserve a choice.”
If elected chair, O’Rourke said she’d focus on making the Democratic Party’s tent as big as possible. And as the party has grown bigger since 2016, O’Rourke said her background in organizational management would come in handy.
“After Mr. Trump was elected, we had people coming out of the woodwork wanting to work for Democratic candidates, wanting to get involved, and they expressed their desire to support Democratic candidates,” O’Rourke said. “And due to growing pains, we didn’t have a good mechanism for onboarding people, for finding out how they wanted to be involved and making sure they get involved. So we would have people say, ‘I’d like to help with this,’ and horribly, nobody wrote their name down and got it to somebody who could put them to work. Well, we’re gonna be writing names down and collecting phone numbers and making sure they get involved and work for the candidates they want to work for.”
O’Rourke praised Richards and said she supported her 2018 run for county clerk. She said Richards excels in the spotlight.
O’Rourke, also a professional life coach, stressed her ability to execute. She said she’s good at helping figure out what the goal should be, defining and refining it, and developing an action plan to get there.
“Nikita is great at saying, ‘Let’s take that hill.’ I’m really good at making sure that the Army doesn’t march beyond its supply line,” O’Rourke said. “I can be on a big stage in front of a lot of people, but that doesn’t really turn my crank like it does for Nikita.”
Democratic precinct committee people will choose their next chair Wednesday. They can either cast their secret ballot via drive-up dropoff at the party’s downtown Bloomington headquarters, or they can email in their selection.
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