Saturday, August 25, 2018

EXTRA: How many chances does Gov. Rauner need to say Madigan is corrupt?

Listening to Gov. Bruce Rauner say this week he wants there to be a dozen formal debates between now and Election Day reminds me of the 1998 election cycle.

Pritzker only wants three
Specifically, the portion of the cycle in which Democrats had their candidates fight it out for who would get to be the gubernatorial nominee who would ultimately take on Republican George Ryan.

THAT ELECTION CYCLE ultimately saw Southern Illinois favorite son candidate Glenn Poshard use his regional base to beat up on urban candidates John Schmidt, Roland Burris and Jim Burns. It also was one in which there were many debates.

It seems the candidates were traveling all over the state, making appearances and trying to make the locals feel like they were privileged to be in the presence of the gubernatorial aspirants.

Sounds great? Not really.

What I remember of that election cycle was that they became less about speaking to the would-be voters, and more about giving every broadcast organization involved in sponsoring an event a chance to pretend that THEIR debate was the ONLY debate that mattered.

Rauner must really want to say "Madigan evil"
WHILE NEWSPAPER COVERAGE wound up making these events all sound so repetitive of each other.

Largely because they were. Candidates mostly ignored the questions they were asked and used their time to issue rebuttals to whatever negative pot-shots were made against them. I can remember sitting through those events and feeling incredibly uninformed.

I was always thankful that election officials in the future went back to thinking in terms of three as the number of debates that were needed prior to an Election Day. Even though I do believe there is benefit to a structured-format event in which the candidates confront each other.

McCann will take 12 too
So to hear Rauner say he wants a dozen debates fills me with dread. How many times do we need to hear the man spew insipid claims of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s corruption? How many times do we need to hear rhetorical links of Madigan’s support for billionaire J.B. Pritzker’s candidacy?

THREE WILL PROBABLY be more than enough. Although I expect Rauner will insist on complaining he’s not being given ample times to screech “Dump Madigan!!!” to prospective voters.

If anything, Rauner is merely confirming my own political hypothesis – which is that the first candidate in any election cycle to complain about the number of debates is the loser.

So I’m inclined to be sympathetic to the Pritzker camp which has suggested three debates – although I’ll admit Pritzker is playing some hard-core politicking of his own in picking where they will be held, and pretty much making it a “take it or leave it” choice for Rauner to accept.

Two of the debates would be held in Chicago, with one to be co-sponsored by the Telemundo Spanish-language television affiliate along with the Chicago Urban League. Where I’m sure we’ll get tons of questions intended to remind us that Rauner is just a rich white guy who doesn’t get it. Along with reminders of all the vetoes Rauner made last week on measures related to immigration.

AS FOR THE one debate intended outside of metro Chicago, it would be set for Quincy, the city along the Mississippi River with a veterans’ home that has been the focus of instances of veterans who died from Legionaires’ disease. It’s probably the one place in rural Illinois where Rauner does NOT want to set foot.

Multiple debates didn't help Poshard win
And as for the traditional debate held by the League of Women Voters, that’s a group most likely not interested in cheap political pandering by any candidate.

I do find it intriguing that Conservative Party candidate Sam McCann is accepting Rauner’s offer of 12 debates. But that’s because he needs as much attention and opportunity as possible to let voters know he exists if he’s to be at all irrelevant come Nov. 6.

Which means it’s really sad that Rauner, an incumbent with significant personal wealth (he essentially bought the post in the 2014 election cycle) feels he’s just as desperate. All the more reason many voters have already shifted their focus to the mayoral election cycle of 2019.


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