Saturday, August 28, 2010

Cohen is ignored at one’s own risk

It became official Friday – Scott Lee Cohen will be one of the candidates whose name gets printed on the Nov. 2 election ballot as a candidate for governor.

Cohen, of course, is the man who won the Democratic party’s nomination for lieutenant governor, then had to drop off the ticket within a couple of weeks because of indignation over his personal past – which includes a record of boorish behavior toward his ex-wife.

IN SHORT, HE’S a cad.

But that has never excluded anyone from holding elective office in the past. And it seems Cohen isn’t giving up on his dreams of becoming a public official. Pat Quinn gets punished for not sticking by Cohen in the days following the February primary by now having to run against Cohen – who seems determined to take advantage of the fact that many black voters in Illinois these days are disenchanted with the Democratic Party.

Personally, I wasn’t surprised by Cohen’s electoral victory in the primary. Too many political observers seem to forget that the rank-and-file legislators who were running for that lieutenant governor’s post are only known to the people who live in their immediate district.

Probably most people in Illinois have never heard of Art Turner, who was supposed to be the favorite to win that primary. If anything, they probably heard the name and guessed he was some distant relation to the singer and guitar player Ike Turner (whom we all know has his own record of mistreatment of his ex-wife).

SO WHEN I heard during the primary season that Cohen was willing to spend his own money to come up with a few million to advertise himself, and also was scheduling events staged as job fairs to help people find work, I figured there was a good chance that the typical voter who picked a Democratic ballot would see the half-dozen names running for that office and HIS name would be the only one that jumped out at them.

Combined with the fact that people I encountered who actually knew Cohen personally all said he is a down-to-earth guy who doesn’t come across as a professional politician means there is a chance that the types of voters who find electoral politics intimidating might think he is a refreshing change of pace.

Those same factors are all the same reasons why we shouldn’t count out Cohen as having a chance to take a significant number of votes come Nov. 2. Perhaps even enough to become the factor that deprives Quinn of a victory and gives the people of Illinois four years of “Gov. William Brady.”

I’m sure the same people who thought that Art Turner or Mike Boland, or perhaps even Rickey Hendon, were the natural favorites back in February are now presuming the fact that Cohen’s personal problems and borderline sleazy behavior make him damaged goods.

WHICH MEANS THEY’RE underestimating him, which is what I’m sure is exactly what Scott Lee wants.

For I can’t help but notice the types of appearances he is making in recent months. All very low-key, and ignoring anything where he gets confronted by a mass of people. It’s almost like he wants to reach voters one at a time, and give them a personal dose of his personality.

He also seems to be seeking out the off-beat news media outfits (cable access programs, small-town radio stations, dinky circulation newspapers that rarely get a crack at a “real live candidate for governor.”

The one constant is that he has not been facing questions about his behavior and his character and his qualifications for the job, which I question because I personally am skeptical of any business owner who thinks that having his own company qualifies him to run government. They are just two different breeds of animal.

WHICH MEANS THAT the appearance that Cohen gets to put on is one of his charm scaled back to the small-town level. Since I don’t think he expects to win come Nov. 2, I honestly believe he is merely trying to knock about a few of those people who wouldn’t back him, and instead have given us the noble, if not quite exciting, concept of Democratic lieutenant governor nominee Sheila Simon.

It’s not just Quinn. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind if he could help shift enough votes away from Democratic candidates for the Illinois House of Representatives so as to turn Michael Madigan into a “minority leader” for the first time in 14 years.

I know some pundits who are paying attention to Cohen are concerned about his impact on the black vote, which various polls are showing is not as solid for Quinn as should be expected. Not that they’re going for Brady – many are undecided, and may just decide this election doesn’t mean much.

Personally, I wonder if it is going to be a fight among all the malcontents on the ballot for that black vote. Since the Green Party’s LeAlan Jones is a black man running on that party’s ticket for the U.S. Senate seat, and he is leading an effort by the Green Party to strengthen its status as a political party by getting disenchanted African-Americans to shift their Election Day ties.

WHICH MEANS IT could be the Green Party gubernatorial hopeful Rich Whitney who winds up benefitting from any black voters who decide they just don’t want to back Quinn.

Although in the end, I do believe many African-American voters will wind up with The Mighty Quinn, if for no other reason that the Greens and the Cohen camp have the potential to be so weak that those voters would gain nothing by backing them.

But for that to happen, Quinn is going to have to take the Cohen candidacy seriously. I only hope that such action will kick in in those days following Labor Day. Otherwise, this election cycle could turn deadly brutal because of a man too many people are underestimating as politically bloodied and buried.



Kathy P's Blog said...

I am one of the people who personally know Scott Lee Cohen and he will make a great Governor. I have written about him a number of times at my

Anonymous said...

Scott IS a serious candidate and serious threat. People are over the party politics and status quo. Scott has my vote!