May 12, 2022

Political in-fighting, allegations of domestic abuse mar Illinois state senate race

Winnebago County GOP Chairman Eli Nicolosi (left), a candidate running against state Sen. Dave Syverson (right) in next month's primary election, said he has no plans to resign as his party's chair.

ROCKFORD — High-ranking Winnebago County Republicans say their party chairman’s candidacy against a long-standing Republican office holder is causing a distraction among voters.

They say an emergency order of protection filed by candidate Eli Nicolosi’s wife on April 19 and voluntarily withdrawn by his wife on May 4 is causing further distraction, and Nicolosi should resign from his party post. 

Nicolosi, chairman of the Winnebago County Republican Central Committee and a candidate for Illinois Senate District 35 against 30-year incumbent Dave Syverson, says the allegations against him and calls for his resignation are nothing more than “political shenanigans.”

“This is exactly what is wrong with our state,” Nicolosi said Tuesday. “This is exactly what is wrong with our country. This is exactly why good people steer clear of getting involved in politics in the first place. And I don’t blame them.

“Out of 25,000 Republicans in the county and over 300 elected officials, 12 people decided to submit a letter to the press as if they represent the entire party. Twelve people who right up to the point that I declared (candidacy) were actually friends of mine.”

More:Winnebago County Republican Party chairman officially kicks off campaign for Illinois Senate

What the letter says

The letter in question can be found on the Facebook page of Austin Scott Davies, a local divorce attorney and Winnebago County Republican Central Committee captain.

Winnebago County Board Chairman Joe Chiarelli, Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana and Loves Park Mayor Greg Jury were among those who signed the letter. 

The letter in part states: “Certain allegations of personal misconduct by Chairman Nicolosi have recently become public knowledge, and which due to his position as chairman cast an unfavorable light upon the WCRCC. These issues gravely impact his ability and credibility in being the figurehead for the WCRCC, and that circumstances demand that for the integrity and reputation of the WCRCC, Chairman Nicolosi should resign his position as chairman of the WCRCC, immediately.”

In May of last year, Jennifer Hatfield Nicolosi, filed for divorce. The case is ongoing. The couple has been married for 15 years.

Nicolosi thanked his wife for joining him as he addressed members of the media Tuesday evening.

“She didn’t ask for this. Our kids did not ask for this. So shame on the 12 people who signed that letter, and this ridiculous plot to take me off the ballot,” he said.

“Yeah, absolutely, we had a tough year. I’ve never hid that. I’ve also never hid how much I love my family, and how much I stood for marriage, not that it’s anyone’s damn business.”

In a statement given Tuesday to the Register Star, Nicolosi’s wife said their marital issues are theirs and theirs alone. 

“Although I’m not defending Eli, I’m disappointed that they have used something so private and painful to my family in their letter,” she said.

“We have four children, and they have chosen to use my family’s pain and darkest hour as ammunition for their own agenda, and quite frankly, that is more of a reflection on their character than it is on Eli’s.”

Syverson denies involvement

In closing, Nicolosi addressed his opponent by name and demanded that he “stop attacking my marriage.”

When asked about the letter Tuesday, Syverson said he is not behind it.

“I’m a Boone County resident,” he said. “It’s my understanding that that was put together by Winnebago County Republicans.”

More:Republican State Sen. Dave Syverson announces re-election bid

Chiarelli said Nicolosi should resign as chairman of the party while he’s running against an incumbent Republican.

“I believe that is the right thing for him to do while he’s running a campaign,” Chiarelli said, adding that Nicolosi’s candidacy is causing divisions within the party.

“At this point in time, I think it’s necessary that we hit the pause button. Eli understands that there’s issues pending. There’s things that are causing disruption in the party under his leadership at this time.”

Caruana, who is running unopposed in his re-election bid, said Nicolosi is not providing the leadership the party needs. 

“He’s got this race going on. He’s got his personal issues going on,” Caruana said. “He’s not leading the team where it needs to go and setting a vision and moving it forward.”

Chris Green: 815-987-1241;; @chrisfgreen

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