Thursday, November 4, 2010

EXTRA: Will Simon be a more effective lieutenant governor than her predecessor?

SIMON: Following in father's footsteps
Lt. Gov.-elect Sheila Simon is the daughter of a former lieutenant governor herself, as Paul Simon served in the state Legislature and as second-in-command of state government before moving on to a career in Congress – including 12 years as a U.S. senator from Illinois.

Yet in hearing from Simon on Thursday, I couldn’t help but detect a tone reminiscent of another political official, one whom she probably would not appreciate being compared to – former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

WSIL-TV, AN ABC affiliate covering Southern Illinois, talked with Sheila about her thoughts upon becoming the state’s lieutenant governor – at least in the opinion of the Associated Press, which on Thursday proclaimed her running mate, Gov. Pat Quinn, to be the winner of this week’s election.

Most of her thoughts (concerning patience in waiting for the final vote tallies) were predictable. Yet I couldn’t help but catch her comment about a residence.

“I’m not going to pack my bags and move to Springfield at all. I’m from Carbondale,” Simon said. “I’m going to stay in Carbondale,” adding she hopes to do a “good deal” of her work from her Southern Illinois home city – where she was on the faculty of Southern Illinois University School of Law.

Technically, she’s going to have to do something to establish a residence in Springfield, since state law requires all the constitutional officers EXCEPT governor to have a capital city residence (in the case of governor, the state provides the Executive Mansion for the governor’s use).

IT HAS ME wondering if Simon will go the route of Judy Baar Topinka, who back when she was a state legislator and state treasurer rented a cheap house in Springfield and furnished it with items purchased from thrift stores, so as to hold down the expense while maintaining her real home in suburban Riverside.

I’m wondering how long it will be until Republican partisans start denouncing her for refusing to live in the capital city, similar to how they used to jump down the throat of Blagojevich for thinking he can do the job from his Ravenswood Manor neighborhood home.

There is the difference that Simon is talking about living in a downstate Illinois city, rather than Chicago. So perhaps she will become the pride of Southern Illinois similar to how her father was.

Then again, Simon didn’t even win her home Jackson County (it was a 45-percent tie for her and Republican opponent Jason Plummer, although Jason got 23 more votes than Sheila). When combined with her previous loss when she ran for mayor of Carbondale, maybe it is a realization that downstate Illinois political people who want a future had better align themselves with Chicago interests to get ahead.

SPECULATION HAS ALREADY begun as to what exactly Simon contributed to the campaign season. Did she help make Quinn look a little more sympathetic to women voters? Did the tie to her father help make the Republican ticket’s conservative ideological beliefs seem all the more whacked out by comparison?

Back when P. Simon was Lt. Gov.
Regardless, it will be interesting come January when Simon takes the oath of office for the political post that set the stage for her father to start running for high-level political posts in Illinois (a failed governor bid in 1972, several terms in Congress and two terms in the Senate).

At age 49, she is young enough to take a future shot at some higher office. I don’t know if she’ll wind up rivaling her father as the most-prominent “Simon” in Illinois political history. Although considering that she and Quinn don’t have the same contempt for each other that Quinn and Blagojevich did (or distrust her father had as a Democratic lieutenant governor, paired up with Republican Gov. Richard Ogilvie), she’s bound to be more effective in the post than her predecessor was.


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