Sunday, February 7, 2010

EXTRA: We’re in a new world insofar as picking Cohen’s lt. gov. replacement

I don’t have a clue as I write this who will be Gov. Pat Quinn’s running mate for the Nov. 2 general elections for Illinois government posts. But I'd be willing to bet that the process by which a replacement for Scott Lee Cohen is picked is something likely to be more offensive to good-government types than anything Cohen is alleged to have done.

About the only thing I can be sure of is that I doubt any of the five other people who ran against Chicago small businessman Cohen will be able to claim any moral authority to the nomination, even though I’m sure every single one of them thinks they would be the perfect choice for the post of second-in-command who in reality doesn’t do much of anything unless a mishap befalls the governor.

IT AMAZES ME the way all too many people who have been screaming for Cohen’s skull on a pike in recent days seem to think it is just a simple matter of taking Number Two – in terms of just picking the name of the person (state Rep. Art Turner, D-Chicago) who got the second-most number of votes.

Or the ones who think that somehow it will be a simple question of Quinn getting to pick somebody to be in line to succeed him, should he succomb to illness or an act of violence or manage to tick off his legislative colleagues so badly that they impeach him (they’ve got it in their blood now).

I have even heard a few people naïve enough to think that this could mean a special election for Democrats to pick a new lieutenant governor nominee.

Like it or not, this is going to be a question for the party’s state central committee (you know, those positions near the bottom of the ballot that you pay little attention to). That means the party bigwigs (from my congressional district, they're Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., and state Rep. Connie Howard, D-Chicago) ultimately are going to get to decide whom they want to have at Quinn’s side. That thought probably makes them very happy.

AFTER ALL, WHILE age seems to have mellowed Quinn somewhat in recent years, he still is the ideological maverick who in the past has been willing to tell the establishment of his own political party where to go. That sense hasn’t totally left him.

I could see where Democratic officials would have been eager to dump Cohen not so much because they cared about his daliances, but because they’d like to have the authority to hand-pick a Quinn successor. At the very least, he’d be a constant shadow to the governor, reminding him that he’d better not get too far out of line for their tastes – unless he wants them to have the Legislature do a “Blagojevich” on him.

At a time when “voters” are supposedly rebelling against the very thought of “professional” politicians having so much control over government, I find it hard to believe that people are so eager to ditch the results of an election (Cohen did get 26 percent of the vote, more than six other challengers) just so that state Democratic Chairman Michael J. Madigan and his allies can handpick someone more to his liking.

Because that is what the situation has now become.

WHEN I CAST my ballot, I actually went for state Sen. Mike Boland, D-East Moline. In part, I thought that having one of the six people running as Democrats for statewide constitutional offices coming from outside of metropolitan Chicago provided a sense of balance – particularly when all the ridiculous rhetoric crops up about Chicago trying to take over the state.

I still think Boland would be acceptable, although considering that he got just under 13 percent of the vote (105,551 votes, or 12.9 percent), I think it might be hard for him to put up any real kind of claim –other than that his presence would help deliver the Quad Cities vote come November.

But then I see that Boland barely finished ahead of Elmhurst electrician Thomas Castillo (12.8 percent of the vote) and that the man I would have bet money on being the front-runner, state Sen. Terry Link, D-Vernon Hills, finishing dead last – at 12.2 percent, or 99,972 votes.

It really was a screwy Election Day last week, and not just because of Cohen or Bill Brady/Kirk Dillard for governor as a Republican.

ABOUT THE ONLY result that truly makes much conventional sense is the outcome of the Republican primary for Illinois comptroller.

Former state Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka’s bid for a comeback resulted in her annihilating Jim Dodge and William Kelly for the right to challenge Democratic nominee (and state Rep.) David Miller of suburban Lynwood come November.

In Topinka, we’re not only talking about a straight-talking accordion player, we’re also talking about a woman comfortable enough with herself that she used to be seen wearing big fuzzy slippers designed to look like gorilla feet while walking around her Statehouse office.

Perhaps that blast from the past is what Illinois government could use.


EDITOR'S NOTE: These people are likely the ones who will decide who the new Democratic "choice" ( for lieutenant governor will be.

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