Monday, April 26, 2010

Are we Cook Co. voters in for the ‘Battle of the Independents’ this election cycle?

I can think of one person who will be absolutely disgusted at the notion of Scott Lee Cohen trying to revamp his political reputation by running a candidacy for electoral office independent of the political parties.

That person would be Forrest Claypool – who himself is running an independent campaign for electoral office come the Nov. 2 elections.

I’M SURE THERE is a part of Claypool who wanted to claim that his independence of any political party in his bid to become Cook County assessor made him high-minded and worthy of our respect. The ultimate goo-goo who would lead a “revolution” of sorts against the Democratic Party hacks and the conservative ideologues who have taken over the Republican Party.

The problem is that Cohen is now also talking about taking the “independent” route – deciding he wants to use it to challenge Gov. Pat Quinn and GOP nominee William Brady.

If he couldn’t have the Democratic Party’s nomination for lieutenant governor, he’s willing to muck up the chances of the two major party nominees who are seeking the office of governor.

Which means we have someone who seems to be more interested in messing with the political people who didn’t back him when he legitimately won the Democratic lieutenant governor nomination.. He may even get a chance to rehabilitate somewhat his reputation – which causes many Illinois residents these days to think of him as nothing more than a pawnbroker or a deadbeat who owes his ex-wife alimony.

WHAT I THINK will happen is that Cohen will add a third label to himself – the highest-profile candidate who made absolutely NO impact on a campaign season.

It also will mess with Claypool in that people will think of the two as an informal pairing of sorts – which will make it harder for the outgoing Cook County Board member to take the high road. Too many people will view them as a pair of political people who didn’t have what it takes to run in the regular elections, so they’re trying to slip into office through the back door – so to speak.

Perhaps I am just a bit cynical, but I would think that if Claypool were serious about wanting to be the county assessor (the office that collects all those property taxes that homeowners pay every year and that local governments and schools rely upon to fund their existence), he would have sought a Democratic nomination during the primary season.

Instead, we got Board of Review Commissioner Joe Berrios managing to win the nomination to replace retiring Assessor James Houlihan – despite the views of many political observers that he is exactly the kind of political party establishment type whom voters are inclined to reject in what some see as a “non-incumbent” trend.

COULD IT BE that Claypool, who tried four years ago to become county board President, became wearied of the electoral process that he’s looking for a short-cut of sorts to get into office? If that is the case, then his “independent” bid ought to be enough reason to vote against him – no matter what one thinks of Berrios.

My guess is that he thinks he has better name recognition than Berrios among Cook County voters, and could thus have a chance of actually winning that campaign.

I have always viewed the wear and tear of going through a political campaign (even enduring the more stupid and trivial moments) as a test of sorts to see how qualified someone is for electoral office. It seems to me that Claypool is trying to short-circuit that process.

I’m only glad that he is not trying to use a short-cut to run against county board President nominees Toni Preckwinkle or Roger Keats. That kind of election would result in his downfall, and rightfully so.

SO WHEN CLAYPOOL – who once was one of the many chiefs of staff who have worked for Mayor Richard M. Daley – tries to portray himself as the ultimate good-government type, I am going to be a bit cynical. As far as I’m concerned, his campaign will be closer in character to that of Cohen than it will be anything even remotely Obama-esque.

As for Cohen, I see his campaign as being little more than creating an alternate “final act” than the one he gave us – that of him bursting into tears while announcing he was withdrawing from the lieutenant governor campaign. That resignation took on a taint of tawdriness as many were offended that he would make the announcement in a tavern (on Super Bowl Sunday) with his young son at his side.

Instead, he wants to take “high-minded” stances on issues, and perhaps give us more of the “job creation” rhetoric that (along with the $2 million of his own money that he spent on campaign advertising) led to his Democratic primary victory.

Some might think he will hurt Democrat Quinn. I doubt it. I think the people who are inclined to not vote for Quinn have already made up their mind to find someone else to cast a ballot for.

NOT THAT I’M saying he’s going to take down the Brady campaign. I think many of the ideologues who are inclined to want to back that campaign are going to take one look at Cohen and be incredibly repulsed.

In short, I don’t think Cohen will have much of an effect on this election cycle. He could wind up being the most prominent candidate ever in Illinois politics who barely gets 1 percent of the vote.


EDITOR’S NOTES: This is the way Forrest Claypool views himself, while this is how many potential voters view him.

Republicans want to fantasize about Scott Lee Cohen becoming a serious campaign issue, even though he’s more likely to remain an afterthought in this year's gubernatorial campaign.

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