Monday, November 2, 2009

3 + 9 = Electoral Relief

We have exactly three months from Monday until the primary Election Day in Illinois. Then, we have exactly 9 more months until the general election is complete, and we can be spared the nonsense that typically fills the “silly season.”

Until then, however, we’re going to be bombarded with rhetoric, stunts and general levels of inanity coming from various candidates wishing to run for electoral office. The day will come when we view those campaign commercials that put Blagojevich-style hair on all kinds of government officials as being the least offensive bit we’ll see this election season.

IT REALLY WORKS out this time that we are 365 days from the day that Republicans across Illinois dream will be the moment that voters rise up and dump Democrats everywhere – thereby re-establishing an order in which a GOP majority can go back to trying to ram a moralistic agenda down our throats the way they tried to back in 1995-96.

If it reads like I think reality will fall far short of that goal, you’d be correct.

I expect the end result of the 2010 election cycles to be a period in which Republicans gain a few offices, but in which Democrats still hold a majority. It won’t be the utter domination that we now have, but losing that won’t be the biggest loss in the world.

It just means we’ll be able to go back to blaming both political parties for the inability of things to get done within Illinois government, rather than thinking the problem is one entirely of a Democratic creation.

MUCH OF THE attention thus far is going on the U.S. Senate and Illinois governor races, where Roland Burris is leaving the former post and where Pat Quinn would like to have a chance to have a full four-year term in the latter office.

Both men have the potential to have Rod Blagojevich’s name linger over their campaigns, and you can bet that Republican candidates will go out of their way to ensure that the potential is fully achieved.

For this is the election cycle they want to think of as a referendum, of sorts, on the now-impeached governor who could theoretically be facing the end of a criminal trial in U.S. District Court some time next October – just in time to try to influence voters in the Nov. 2 general election.

The reality is that looking at the candidates, without a Blagojevich factor, the Democrats seeking both offices would be the clear frontrunners. With a Blagojevich factor, the GOP hopefuls could be competitive.

THERE ARE THOSE who are wondering if the more moderate segment of the Republican Party will prevail in the primary elections, giving a candidate who might be able to swipe some of the so-called independent voters who might otherwise be able to consider backing a Democratic hopeful.

Others (myself included) see that the conservative elements are going to see this as their potential chance to not have to pander to anyone, and to pick an ideologue who is willing to push a conservative agenda once elected, no matter whose feelings are offended.

I have heard some speculation about the GOP gubernatorial bid of Bill Brady, the state senator from Bloomington who has been positioning himself as a favorite of the ideologues, and that some party officials fear he could win the primary and cost them a chance to knock out Quinn/Dan Hynes.

Others wonder if the key figure to watch is Dan Proft for U.S. Senate. He has never held elective office, but he has worked in electoral politics as one of the hard-core campaign types who knows how to run and also has a sense of public relations that includes a quick wit that can come up with the quips that can take down more moderate foes.

IN THEORY, EITHER of these guys doing well is a sign that the GOP faithful are more interested in ideology than trying to reach out to people and win an election, whereas votes for people like Mark Kirk for Senate and Kirk Dillard for governor would indicate the opposite.

Personally, I’m going to be watching a different set of campaigns for evidence of how strong the conservative ideological desire triumphs over the practicalities of winning an election.

For me, I’m watching the Republican primary for Illinois comptroller – the state government post that controls the issuing of checks and payment of bills for Illinois.

It’s not that I think Jim Dodge, a long-time village trustee and official in southwest suburban Orland Park is some sort of hard-core ideologue. But he’s facing Judy Baar Topinka in the GOP primary.

UNDER TYPICAL CIRCUMSTANCES, Topinka would have the name recognition and experience (three terms as state treasurer, along with being a state senator from west suburban Riverside) to knock Dodge out of the box.

But the rhetoric I’m already hearing from the partisans is that the people who weren’t too enthused about voting for Topinka to be governor in 2006 aren’t too thrilled about having her in any state government post.

Their rhetoric contends that people like Topinka are the problem with government because they’re not conservative enough to stand up for ideological ideals (even though I remember that Topinka is a woman who once believed Phil Gramm should have been our nation’s president)

They’re going to spend the next year arguing that we need a complete change from the ideals of a Topinka (whom some people would argue were the ideals that once had the GOP as the dominant party within state government).

A DODGE VICTORY (or even a narrow Topinka win) means, in my book, that this will be an uncompromising election cycle.

If this does become an ideological war, we can be assured that Lisa Madigan – who as of Monday morning was the only major party candidate seeking the post of Illinois attorney general – won’t be the only Democrat taking an oath of office on Inauguration Day in Springfield in January 2011.


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