Saturday, November 13, 2010

The campaign that died before it could begin – Alexi Giannoulias for Mayor

Alexi for mayor? Not this time
Perhaps it was a working vacation. Alexi Giannoulias left town for a few days following his loss to Mark Kirk for U.S. Senate from Illinois, and didn’t come back until Thursday.

Which means that for him to say decisively Friday afternoon that he is NOT a candidate for Chicago mayor in the Feb. 22 elections, he must have been making calls trying to drum up support while enjoying his time on a beach somewhere.

TO ME, THAT seems like a self-defeating way to recover from the frenzy of a campaign – by trying to build support for another campaign in just over three months.

Unless we want to believe that Giannoulias got back from vacation, immediately started calling up political people, and came to the realization within a few hours that getting involved in a political campaign so soon after his loss would make him look flakey.

I would hope Giannoulias would realize that just by thinking about it, and not having to contact anyone.

The bottom line is that Giannoulias is not going to be trying this weekend to gain 12,500 valid signatures of support on nominating petitions to get himself a spot on the mayoral ballot during the 2011 municipal elections.

THAT DOESN’T MEAN we won’t ever see Giannoulias in public office again. I fully expect him  to run again, and win, a future campaign for office.

It’s not like an Election Day loss means the end of a career doing “the people’s business.” Just look at Pat Quinn, who between serving a term as state treasurer and becoming the state’s lieutenant governor (which because of the erratic behavior of Rod Blagojevich resulted in the Mighty Quinn ascending to governor) lost bids for Illinois secretary of state, U.S. Senate and lieutenant governor.

Will Giannoulias go the Tammy Duckworth route?
There’s even Giannoulias’ one-time basketball buddy, Barack Obama, whose career recovered from that loss to Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill. (although, in all fairness, one must concede that Obama had his Illinois Senate seat to fall back on, he didn’t have to give up the legislative post when he ran for Congress).

In short, anybody who wants to think that Giannoulias is somehow damaged goods is being naïve.

IT’S JUST THAT the timing of a mayoral campaign was just way too soon. 2012 or 2014 are the best bets for thinking of Giannoulias as a candidate for higher office – not next year.

If anything, I wonder if some sort of government appointment is in Giannoulias’ future – to help tide over the time between now and the next election. He might wind up taking over the niche that Tammy Duckworth once had. She lost her 2006 bid for Congress from the western suburbs, yet got an Illinois Veterans Affairs Department appointment, only to turn it into a federal VA appointment as assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs – which seems to interest her more than actually running for office, considering how many times she has turned down chances to run again for political office.

Could it be Alexi who now gets considered whenever there is a vacancy?

I have to confess that in the couple of days after Giannoulias lost to Kirk, my mind concocted the scenario in which Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan were to actually decide she wanted to be a part of the Chicago mayoral mess.

IN WHICH CASE, her eventual resignation would create an appointment for the governor to fill. Quinn picking Giannoulias to be the attorney for state government?

Illinois Attorney General Alexi Giannoulias? It makes as much sense as any scenario, since Giannoulias is a law school graduate and a former state constitutional official.

Madigan, of course, has since indicated she is not going for mayor, which has some people thinking that an administrative position of sorts is bound to open up in the federal government – giving Obama a chance to put Giannoulias into a slot where he could bide his time until he makes up his mind what the next political office will be that he will seek.

Because while Giannoulias said in a statement declaring his non-candidacy for mayor that he, “didn’t get into public service just to run for office,” I can’t help but think that any guy with the kind of ambition that started his political career with a bid for Illinois treasurer, then tried to move up after only one term to be the U.S. Senate member from Illinois isn’t going to suddenly give up now.

IF ANYTHING, PERHAPS a little bit of humbling from his loss to Kirk (which – for those Republicans who want to gloat – wasn’t by that much of a victory margin) would help him with a political future.

The key will be to see if Giannoulias can follow the example of Obama – who lost in 2000 to Rush for the right to represent the South Side in Congress. Obama has since come to say that Rush “spanked me” in that campaign, and that he had to think seriously about why he was involved in public service positions.

If Giannoulias thinks in those terms, instead of obsessing about how he could have closed a roughly 75,000-vote gap, he probably will find himself taking an oath of office sometime in the near future.


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