Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Cohen thinks he’s back; I’ll believe it when I see nominating petition signatures

“Illinois needs honesty more than perfection.”


Moreso than the stories of holding a knife to a prostitute’s throat or being a deadbeat who fell behind on child support, that line ought to be the political legacy left behind by Scott Lee Cohen, the man who for two weeks was the Democratic Party’s nominee for Illinois lieutenant governor.

By now, anybody who cares has heard that Cohen staged himself a press conference Monday outside the Thompson state government building to announce he is running for governor as a political independent.

SO WE NOW have people getting all worked up that Cohen is in this campaign to wreck his revenge against the Democratic Party for not standing behind him by scuttling the gubernatorial hopes of incumbent Pat Quinn.

Is Cohen, the CEO of State Pawners (the pawn shop founded by his father) the type of guy who would give the people of Illinois “Gov. William Brady” to make himself feel better about the fact that his political career ended before it ever began?

It could be. People who run for electoral office are capable of being that petty.

And it’s not like Cohen was ever the typical political person. He came out of nowhere to run for an office with such a low profile that he figured he could slip into a position where he could then catapult to the top. This isn’t someone who is interested in working his way through the ranks of government and learning about public policy.

WHICH IS WHY I find it laughable that he now portrays himself as the pillar of political honesty.

That particular quote came in response to questions about whether his personal past that caused the Democratic Party to dump on him for lieutenant governor could be overcome in the minds of the voters when they decide Nov. 2 who to pick for governor.

The line that Cohen backers (they do exist, they like the idea that he ran a small-scale business and is unpolitical so much that they will ignore any sordid details about his life) tout is that it wasn’t Cohen himself who ever tried to cover anything up. Some people go so far as to try to blame newsgathering organizations for not thoroughly exposing every sordid detail of Cohen’s life, although I have to wonder how much any outfit would have been laughed at hysterically had they spent any time worrying about the lieutenant governor’s race.

After all, there was a Senate campaign on the Republican side and a gubernatorial fight for the Democrats. Plus, Chicago-area reporter-types were absolutely determined to dig up every detail possible so as to ensure that Todd Stroger didn’t pull off some sort of upset and manage to win the Feb. 2 primary for Cook County Board president.

BUT LET’S BE honest.

People didn’t pick Cohen to be the lieutenant governor nominee because they thought he had any special qualifications. He won because he ran in a field of nobodies (political observers tend to forget that real people had never heard of the so-called front-runner, long-time state Rep. Art Turner, D-Chicago) and used his personal wealth to run enough campaign advertising that his name was probably the only one many people sort of recognized.

Cohen is correct in one regard. We should get more honesty from our political people. In some ways, Cohen isn’t any more sordid than anyone else who runs for political office. I’m not even sure he’s the official with the worst reputation.

Seriously, how low do many people regard Rod Blagojevich? Or has Cohen the alleged wife-beater managed to sink even below Milorod on the Illinois political scum scale? (Which, by the way, contains people of all the major political parties).

BECAUSE OF THE fact that Cohen’s reputation is just so low, I can’t say I take seriously the idea of any independent campaign he might run.

A part of me will be amazed if he can get the 25,000 valid signatures of support required of any political independent (compared to 5,000 for someone running for an established political party’s nomination) to even get on the ballot.

Which means that Cohen’s campaign may have reached its peak on Monday, a month-and-a-half before it officially began.

How many people are going to be willing to sign one of his nominating petitions, except as something resembling a gag (just like all the people who vote for “Mickey Mouse” for president – come to think of it, didn’t he win in ’00 and ’04?).

SOMEONE WHO ISN’T convinced how hard it is to get valid petition signatures for a populist movement ought to ask the League of Women Voters what ever became of their petition drive on behalf of reforming the means by which we redistrict legislative and congressional district boundaries every 10 years.

Their deadline came and went without them even getting close. I could see the same thing happening to Scott Lee. If, by chance, it appears that he will hit the 25,000 figure, I could envision all kinds of people aligned with the Democratic Party crawling out of the woodwork to challenge his legitimacy.

He could wind up having to engage in a massive legal fight for the right to get 1 percent of the vote come Election Day.


EDITOR’S NOTES: Scott Lee Cohen will attract a certain type of person who resents government and will want to vote for anyone who thinks just like they do. People with any sense will, and in fact already are trying to, distance themselves from him.

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