Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Is Illinois ready for Pawar? Are Dems ready for ’18 governor campaign?

Chicago-area Democrats have one thing going for them when it comes to the 2018 election cycle when Illinois picks a new governor – incumbent Bruce Rauner who likes to let us know how much we’re supposed to hate Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is despised almost as much.
PAWAR: Illinois' first Indian-American gov?

Rauner may have a personal fortune from his time as a venture capitalist, but no one out there is really going to be enthused about wanting him back for another term in office.

IF THE ’16 presidential cycle devolved into the campaign about “Who Do We Hate the Most?,” the ’18 battle for Illinois governor will be even worse.

I don’t doubt that the other 96 counties of Illinois will lean against anything having to do with Chicago or the local Democratic organization. But the level of contempt that Rauner has aroused within the six-county Chicago area is strong, too.

And let’s not forget that those six counties do account for about two-thirds of the state’s population – with Cook County alone being nearly half the state’s people.

But whether that will be sufficient that people should think Rauner’s re-election bid has the stink of death over it similar to how soon-to-be former Sen. Mark Kirk’s campaign did this year has yet to be determined.

THE ONE THING that Rauner’s re-election bid has going for it is that we don’t have a clue who the Democrats will find to run for governor. Particularly since veteran Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., has decided he wants to remain as a part of the Illinois political establishment in D.C. – rather than be the so-called CEO of state government.

Will governor learn people like him less...

The lack of a credible challenger is to the point where the Politico newspaper took seriously the talk that 47th Ward Alderman Ameya Pawar wants to run for governor.

Pawar, the suburban Evanston-born son of immigrants from India, is now in his second term in the City Council, and apparently thinks he can replicate his initial electoral victory of 2011 – back when he beat long-time Alderman Eugene Schulter on a puny campaign fund.

In part, he had the appeal of being the first Asian (let alone Indian) elected to the City Council. He has been able to maintain a bit of a progressive image as he has served as alderman. He has been among the most interesting of public officials to serve in the council in recent years.
... than they do the Ill. House speaker?

YET I ALSO don’t doubt that all the things that are his strengths as a Chicago alderman will be turned into negatives if he tries to run an Illinois statewide campaign.

Particularly since I don’t doubt that the masses of Southern Illinois who helped remove most of the remaining rural Democrats serving in the General Assembly will be willing to hold Pawar’s ethnicity against him. After all, this is the new Era of Trump in which we no longer give much credence to such considerations!

I don’t think the “Little India” community along Devon Avenue is enough to propel a statewide campaign for public office. And if Pawar seriously thinks he can go knocking on doors all across Illinois to introduce himself, he’ll find out just how big (500 miles long, 350 miles wide) the state is.

There’s also the inevitable tie that Rauner will try to make (and that rural residents will be gullible enough to believe) that Pawar is nothing more than a political lackey to Mayor Rahm Emanuel (who lives in Pawar’s ward) and, by extension, Madigan.

THE REALITY IS that people in Chicago Democratic politics tolerate each other, at best. They don’t really know how to play nice. I remember back when Susana Mendoza was a state legislator whom Madigan thought of as a bit of an annoyance and he was glad to see her leave state government for the city clerk’s post.
KENNEDY: Will he ever campaign?

Yet Rauner spewed the nonsense that she was a Madigan puppet to the point where it was obvious Mendoza didn’t get the same Democratic coat-tails from Hillary Clinton’s presence on the ballot that Senate candidate Tammy Duckworth did.

Consider that if Pawar has his weaknesses, he gets taken seriously at this point because there’s no one else. Billionaire J.B. Pritzker (as in the Hyatt Hotels chain) has never run for office before. And as for Christopher Kennedy (nephew of JFK and son of Bobby), the one-time manager of the then-family-owned Merchandise Mart likes the idea of being thought of as a candidate for office – but has never shown the willingness to put in the work of an actual campaign.

All of which means that if Democrats are to put up a credible candidate for governor two years from now, it probably will be somebody whose name hasn’t cropped up yet. Let’s not forget that we didn’t hear of Rauner until March of the year before he managed to defeat Pat Quinn for the political post.


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