Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Will Lt. Gov. pairings resolve anything?

For a position that some people think means little and perhaps ought to be abolished, that of lieutenant governor often comes into play come Election Day.
QUINN: One of few to move up

Perhaps the true role of a second-in-command of state government (which in many ways overstates the position's place in electoral politics) is merely to muck up the election cycle and create headaches.

THE CLASSIC LIEUTENANT governor mess of Illinois government involves the 1968 election cycle when Republican Richard Ogilvie was elected governor. But back in the old days, there was no effort to pair up the top two positions in any way.

Which is how Democrat Paul Simon managed to get elected lieutenant governor.

People joke about how Rod Blagojevich went for years without speaking to his lieutenant governor (and now our current governor, Pat Quinn). But the Ogilvie/Simon years weren't exactly a warm, loving relationship either.

Some people bring up the most recent statewide elections, in which Scott Lee Cohen got the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor to run along with Quinn -- only to be pressured by the political powers-that-be into renouncing the post.

THAT'S WHAT HAPPENS when a divorce gets ugly and the stories start flying about -- as they did with regards to Cohen (who tried to run an independent campaign for governor later in the 2010 election cycle, but that went nowhere).

All this has our state's political people thinking that perhaps a change in policy needs to be made from the current status -- where a lieutenant governor hopeful runs on his own in the primary, but then gets paired up with the governor candidate of his party come the general election.

That change was made following the Ogilvie/Simon fiasco, when the candidates used to run separate all the way through.

The change being considered is that governor candidates would have to follow the lead of presidential hopefuls -- they would have to declare a running mate during the primary, then have that person's name appear on the ballot alongside theirs come Election Day.

THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY actually slipped this change into state law with few people noticing. In fact, I have to confess that I didn't catch on to the change until I happened to notice a recent column in the Springfield State Journal-Register newspaper that mentioned the change.

I'm sure some people think there is a logic to this change. A running mate is declared early on -- and everything is nice and clear.


I'm curious to know where we're going to come up with enough people to fill all the lieutenant governor candidate slots that inevitably will be created. Would we wind up with ballots with so many names on them that they'd resemble the chaotic mess of 17 names that currently exist on the Democratic primary ballot for the special election to replace Jesse Jackson, Jr., in Congress.

IN THE DEMOCRATIC primary, there's already talk that both Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and former White House chief of staff William Daley will challenge Quinn -- along with any other ambitious Democrat -- come the 2014 election cycle.

For the Republicans, we're likely to get a repeat of the half-dozen candidates who tried running for governor in 2010. Are there enough people willing to tie themselves to a specific candidate for a political position whose only duty is to be on hand to serve -- in the rare event that the "big guy" gets incapacitated, or impeached like Blagojevich?

Although such a change would eliminate the confusion of the 1994 Democratic primary when two women (Sheila Smith and then-state Sen. Penny Severns of Decatur) ran for lieutenant governor, with three major candidates going for governor.

Two of the governor candidates chose to align themselves with the women (Roland Burris and Smith, Richard Phelan and Severns), only to have the third major candidate, Dawn Clark Netsch, win the primary.

AMONG THE MANY problems that Netsch confronted during her eventual general election loss to Gov. Jim Edgar was that she was never able to shake the thought among many that her running mate Severns couldn't truly be supportive of her -- if she had aligned herself with the Cook County Board president's gubernatorial aspirations first.

Perhaps this change would eliminate the headache caused by such a result. But I can't help but wonder if this "remedy" is the equivalent of treating a headache with a baseball bat to the forehead?


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