GOP leader endorses Democrat in primary
State Rep. Angelo "Skip" Saviano, R-77th, of Elmwood Park, is head of the House Republican Organization, but also supports Democrats like Chris Welch and Don Harmon. | Sutn-Times Media file photo
Updated: May 21, 2012 1:48AM
Democrat Emanuel “Chris” Welch got an unusual endorsement last week for his state representative bid: It came from a Republican.
Illinois State Rep. Angelo “Skip” Saviano, R-77th, of Elmwood Park, isn’t just any Republican.
Besides being Republican State Central 5th District committeeman, Saviano is also chairman of the House Republican Organization. That is the political fundraising committee of the House Republican caucus, responsible for electing and retaining House Republicans.
The HRO, which has taken in nearly $500,000 in the past six months, states on its website: “If you have had enough of the Illinois Democrats’ tax-and-spend policies, sign our petition today and join the movement to fix Illinois.”
But in a signed message on his campaign letterhead last week which was sent to River Forest households, Saviano said he’s backing a Democrat.
“Dear River Forest residents, families and friends ... I need your help to get the right person in Springfield — someone who will work with us and support the values and priorities of our communities. That is why I ask that you cast your primary vote for Emanuel ‘Chris’ Welch (D),” Saviano wrote.
“I stalwartly believe that Emanual ‘Chris’ Welch will be a strong voice in Springfield and a partner as we work to get Illinois on track,” he added.
Saviano and Welch did not return calls to their offices for comment.
No Republican is running in the 7th House race.
Larry Shapiro, the campaign manager for Welch’s opponent Rory Hoskins, shrugged off the cross-party endorsement as par for the course.
“It’s a legitimate approach,” Shapiro allowed. “Skip Saviano is very close to a number of people who are close to Welch,” he said. “This endorsement business is mostly about relationships.”
“At this point they’re probably pulling out all the stops,” Shapiro said. “They probably felt a (Saviano) endorsement would probably have an effect with some River Forest voters.”
A former Leyden Township official who has been a state rep since 1993, Saviano is famously bi-partisan. He was the first House Republican ever appointed chairman of a committee by Democratic Speaker of the House Michael Madigan.
In 2002, one of his Saviano’s staffers, James Caporusso, ran against Democrat Don Harmon of Oak Park for state Senate in the 38th District. After filing deadline passed, Caporusso withdrew from the race, leaving Harmon unopposed.
Since then, Saviano has shared office space with Harmon on Grand Avenue in River Grove.