Though only 80 people will cast ballots, an election to be held March 5 will have a major effect on Cook County politics, for better or for worse. Recent developments suggest things may finally be for the better.

Republican county chairman Liz Gorman announced Friday she’ll convene the 50 Chicago ward committeemen and 30 suburban township committeemen at a Chicago restaurant March 5 to elect the party’s new county chairman. The local Republican Party will then either be in the hands of someone dedicated to building an effective political organization, or someone inclined, as Gorman was, to merely turn that power over to the Democrats.

Two days after the wreckage of Alan Keyes’ 2004 senate candidacy skidded to a halt, Michael Sneed posed a question in her Sun-Times column, asking, “Is a new Republican Party in Illinois looming?”

Republican fundraiser Thomas Grusecki told Sneed at the time, “The unfunny joke is over. It’s time to rebuild, but without (Keyes). We need fresh blood and new leadership and to get this back to a two-party system.”

Unfortunately, well over three years later, the answer to Sneed’s question is still “no.” New leadership, yes. Rebuilding, no. And certainly no two-party system.

The Tribune’s John Kass put his finger on the problem with his “combine” theory of malignant cooperation between corrupt Democrats and Republicans. So we have a diagnosis. The question now is, what’s the prognosis?

Too few genuine Republicans are politically active in Cook County, actually attempting anything politically effective. The resulting void has allowed a pretender like Gorman to step in and advance her own specious agenda, and to do so with the help of plenty of other pretenders.

Forest Park Mayor Tony Calderone was listed on Republican Organization of Proviso Township letterhead as its treasurer. Yet his name is on a September 2002, program as a member of the “Mayoral Host Committee” for a pricey fundraiser at the Melrose Park Civic Center for the gubernatorial campaign of Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat. In 2004 Calderone endorsed Democrat Gery Chico, for senate, and recently endorsed Democrat Larry Suffredin for state’s attorney. That despite there being a qualified and viable Republican candidate already announced.

Another supposed Republican, Broadview Mayor Henry Vicenik, has been giving Democratic State Rep. and Proviso Democratic committeewoman Karen Yarbrough free rent on a village owned office building the past several years. If Calderone, Gorman and Vicenik had been present in the mid 1850s as the Republican Party came into being, the GOP would have been still-born.

Grusecki, a River Forest resident and construction magnate, is adept at both making money and raising it for candidates. Since late 1999, he’s contributed more than $610,000 to state and local candidates, and many thousands more to federal campaigns. Some $500 of that has gone to Calderone in the last 18 months. While that’s mere pocket change for folks like Grusecki, he might want to consider just who he’s assisting.

Before local Republicans can even dream of holding elected Democrats accountable for their actions, a true GOP leader must first step forward and hold people accountable within their own party. Only then can Republicans and Democrats finally start having productive and honest disagreements, instead of intentionally neutered dishonest agreements.

Federal appeals court judge Frank Easterbrook held Liz Gorman and her husband Gerald accountable last week for their “chicanery” in a lawsuit against Daimler-Chrysler Corp. His ruling forces them to pay more than $4 million, and all but indicts Gerald Gorman for perjury.

“Plaintiffs have behaved like a pack of weasels and can’t expect any part of their tale be believed,” wrote Judge Easterbrook.

Looks like someone’s finally catching on to the Gormans. Hopefully the county GOP will, too.