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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Previewing Illinois

Finally, the political world revolves around the state of Illinois for one day. Illinois is the first in the nation to hold its primaries and so the nation will have its electoral eyes on Illinois. Nationally, the two big races will be for the U.S. Senate and Governor. Republicans have a realistic chance of winning both in November.

The Democrats are putting up Dan Hynes and current Governor Pat Quinn. For self interest, all Republicans should be rooting for Pat Quinn to win. Quinn's first act as Governor was to raise that state's income tax about 50%. As the former Lt. Governor to Blago, that taint will likely stay with Quinn. Meanwhile, Hynes, the state's current Comptroller, has been surging in the polls.

Both are Springfield insiders in a year when that's a very bad place to be. On the Republican side, three candidates have been playing whack a mole with each other. Those candidates are Andy McKenna, Kirk Dillard, and Jim Ryan. Each would have the insider's label attached to them. Because each has waged a bloody commercial battle against each other. Dillard appeard in an ad in favor of then candidate Barack Obama in the 2008 election cycle. Both Dillard and Ryan are attached to tax increases. Meanwhile, McKenna has been attached to corruption as head of the Illinois GOP.

I believe that all three will knock each other out. Meanwhile, Adam Andrzejewski and Dan Proft were both vying for the candidate of the outsider. Recently, Andrzejewski has surged after being endorsed by Lech Walesa. That endorsement has lead to an endorsement by stalwart Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck yesterday. That race remains wide open but my pick is Andrzejewski.
In the Senate side, Alexi Giannoulias, the state's current Treasurer, has been dogged recently by his connection to his family's bank, Broadway Bank. He's facing David Hoffman, the recently former IG in Chicago and Chicago Urban League President Cheryle Jackson. Hoffman has gained traction attacking Giannoulias' big stock withdrawals over the last couple years. This has all happened while Broadway Bank has been losing tens of millions and is on the verge of being taken over by regulators. Meanwhile, Giannoulias was a loan officer at Broadway when he worked there. In fact, when he ran for the State's Treasurer office in 2006 he was dogged by loans made by the bank made to reputed mob boss in the area. Meanwhile, Hoffman has gained a reputation as corruption fighter. He was initially supposed to be a typical IG in Chicago but then waged several high profile battles with officials close to Daley. Hoffman has been dogged by what has been characterized as a terribly negative campaign including several retraction.

Once again, self interest would mean that Republicans are rooting for Giannoulias. Giannoulias was ahead as of the last set of polls but the race has taken on national significance and further exposure in the last week. That race remains up in the air. The last time the Democrats elected a true anti corruption fighter it was Mike Quigley to represent the 5th District in the U.S. House. He then cruised to victory in the special election. Hoffman would be a much tougher candidate in November. Meanwhile, Giannoulias would be tainted and bruised coming out of the primary. Jackson's campaign has been running third throughout.

On the Republican side, North Shore Congressman Mark Kirk has been leading throughout. His opponent, Patrick Hughes, is another favorite of the Tea Party movement. Kirk became its scourge following his vote in favor of cap and trade. He's also socially moderate. Still, while Hughes has been gaining recently, Kirk is the overwhelming favorite. He'd also be a favorite against Giannoulias. Against, Hoffman it would be a toss up.

While those two races will have national intrigue, the most compelling race is for the Cook County Board President. The current incumbent, Todd Stroger, has been an also ran throughout. The favorite originally, Dorothy Brown, has been dogged by some new ethics revelations recently. She's the current Clerk of the Cook County Circuit Court. She instituted a policy which laid a $5 fee for any employee that wore jeans to work. She's been unable to account for that money. There's been other questions about her employees contributions.

Questions about jeans day follow previous stories about Brown raising money for pet causes from workers in her office, which has more than 2,100 employees. She's also raised campaign money through her employees and they've been asked to contribute to gifts for her.

Today, Brown's staff acknowledged that there's no comprehensive accounting of the jeans day cash contributions that reach the tens of thousands of dollars each year. She said the office tries to verify that the number of permission stickers issued equals the number of contributions. Employees also are supposed to write their names on envelopes when they contribute for jeans day, she said. The comptroller in her office tracks the money, Brown added.

With corruption a main topic in Cook County, Brown has become vulnerable. That leaves the race open for Chicago Alderman Toni Preckwinkle and the head of the water reclamation district Terry O'Brien. That race also remains wide open.

On the Republican side, Roger Keats is facing off against John Garrido. Keats is the Candidate of the Republican Party in Cook County and he's being backed by Cook County Republican stalwart Tony Peraica. Keats remains the frontrunner in that race.

Meanwhile, the Green Party has been able to field no less than 19 candidates for offices in the Chicagoland area. This includes three candidates for the new head of the Water Reclamation District, Jack Ailey, Diana Horton, and Nadine Bopp. This includes a candidate for Governor, Senator, every Congressional district in the area, and about 70% of the Cook County offices.

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