Illinois Republican Party Chairman Andy McKenna announced Thursday he is resigning from that post, effective immediately, after almost five years on the job.

Illinois Republican Party Chairman Andy McKenna announced Thursday he is resigning from that post, effective immediately, after almost five years on the job.

The move means someone else will be leading the state GOP during the 2010 elections, which include contests for governor, the U.S. Senate and much of the General Assembly. Bobbie Peterson takes over for now as acting chairwoman of the party, and a permanent successor to McKenna will be picked later.

McKenna told members of the Republican State Central Committee, who were meeting Thursday morning at a Springfield hotel, that he had planned to resign now or in early 2010.

"It's coming now or next spring. So let's do it now," he said, adding that he doesn't want Republicans to be mired in the process of choosing a new party leader during election season.

McKenna said he still expects to be heavily involved in Republican politics as a volunteer and that he'd have more time to help candidates raise money.

McKenna said the Republican party in Illinois is strong and well-positioned to beat Democrats in 2010.

"We want to be focused 100 percent on the finish line," he said.

McKenna became GOP chairman in January 2005, succeeding Judy Baar Topinka.

GateHouse News Service State Capitol Bureau