Monday, August 26, 2013

In this year’s governor political brawl, will we be looking at running mates?

First off, let me state up front that I don’t have a clue who any candidate for governor of Illinois in next year’s election cycle is going to choose for a running mate.

I also believe that anybody who says they know how the running mates will impact the overall election is merely guessing. It will be tough to say how a choice for lieutenant governor will alter the process – now that the process itself has been altered.

FOR WE’RE GOING to have to see how it works out that candidates for governor will have to choose a running mate and run with them in the primary election – similar to how the vice president is paired up with the president in the general elections for federal office.

It won’t be quite the same, since for president the nominees don’t pick a running mate until after the primary season is over.

But in Illinois, each candidate for governor is going to have to pick someone – and the pair will run in the primary elections scheduled for March. Which means many people who aspire to be the gubernatorial replacement in the event something happens to the governor himself will wind up going down with the ship next year.

Although I’m also wondering how the choice of a running mate may be the factor that helps voters pick through the field of candidates that is still developing.

I AM SEEING a field of candidates for governor where I seriously believe the voters will wind up picking the person they despise the least. Could that mean the choice of a lieutenant governor candidate could become a factor in people deciding who they vote for?

About the only time I remember lieutenant governor being an issue before was the 1994 Democratic primary – where gubernatorial candidates Roland Burris and Richard Phelan paired themselves up with the two women seeking the lieutenant governor nomination.

Phelan’s pick, then-state Sen. Penny Severns of Decatur, wound up winning the primary, but got paired up with the one gubernatorial candidate – Dawn Clark Netsch – who didn’t pick out a preferred running mate.

Which added another layer of tensions to the general election campaign that year – one in which then-Gov. Jim Edgar used his financial advantages to emphasize her political problems and bury her come Election Day.

SO IT’S NOT like a running mate was a plus that year, either!

Could this be the election cycle that proves to be the exception to the general rule of thumb that people vote for the top of the ticket, and really don’t care about the running mate – whose purpose according to the Illinois Constitution is really to be on hand in case the top official dies or is otherwise unable to complete the term.

Just like Pat Quinn himself, who wound up being paired with Rod Blagojevich when the latter was removed from office through the impeachment process. I believe that whole fiasco showed us the value of the lieutenant governor post.

It became easier for state government officials to vote to dump a governor because there was no dispute over who would succeed him. No political fight over who gets to be the replacement governor made it seem more like electoral politics, and less like the staging of a coup d’etat.

BUT BACK TO this year’s electoral process – where the candidates will have to pick somebody to accompany on them on the ballot. Some of the candidates – including Republicans William Brady and Kirk Dillard – have hinted they will name somebody around the Labor Day holiday, while Dan Rutherford on Sunday put a note on his campaign's Facebook page saying he has made up his mind and will use a Twitter account to make his decision public sometime in the near future.

Within a couple of weeks, we could start to see a slew of lieutenant governor candidates; all paired up with the people who think they're qualified to run state government.

We may also get the fate of Kwame Raoul, the state senator from the Hyde Park neighborhood who has hinted he may run for the Democratic nomination for governor. Although I wonder if the two definitive candidates (Gov. Pat Quinn and William Daley) might try to get Raoul as their running mate so as to bolster their own chances?

Or will it be the year we pick a lieutenant governor as evidence of the would-be governor’s judgment? Or just view the gubernatorial dreamer as the mill-stone around the neck of the man who gets the keys to live in the Executive Mansion in Springfield?


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