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11/03/2009

Ryan's Return!

  If Jim Ryan can pull off this one, it will go down as one of the biggest comebacks in Illinois political history.   The 63 year old former attorney general and cancer survivor has announced his candidacy for governor, growing the field in the republican primary from six to seven.

  In the 2002 general election, Ryan ran unsuccessfully against democrat Rod Blagojevich.  Not only did his campaign occur as the federal noose was tightening around the neck of the outgoing republican governor George Ryan, the fact that Jim shared the same last name with the unrelated George didn't help.

  Since 2003, Jim Ryan has taught political science at Benedictine University.  As he tries to re-assemble the scattered remnants of his political apparatus, he has virtually no money to mount a statewide campaign and for now, will count on residual name recognition to get him through the February 2, 2010 primary election.  Ryan and his aides realize that as little as 20% of the vote might be enough to win a seven candidate race.

  But a seven year absence from the political stage will not lighten Ryan's baggage.  If anything, its gotten heavier.  Ryan's friend from law school and largest donor ($790,000) to his many political campaigns was Stuart Levine, who has pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges including several in which he conspired with democratic party fundraiser Tony Rezko.  During Rezko's trial, Levine admitted to being a drug user and at one point testified that "In no part of my adult life was I not involved in criminal activity".   Ryan, who was the DuPage County state's attorney from 1984 to 1994 and the Illinois Attorney General from 1994 to 2002, says he had no idea his longtime friend and benefactor was a criminal and drug addict. 

  Then there's Ryan's erroneous prosecution during the 1980's and early 90's of Rolando Cruz and Alex Hernandez in the Jeanine Nicarico murder case.   Ryan's DuPage prosecutors were relentless in their cases against the two innocent Latinos.  They either overlooked or discounted evidence against Brian Dugan, who was eventually charged and convicted.   One result of the fiasco has been that whenever Ryan has run for whatever statewide office, Hispanic opponents raise the Cruz and Hernandez prosecutions as reasons NOT to vote for him.

  When Ryan makes his formal announcement today in Springfield we are told he will not take questions from the news media.  But his people have promised a one-on-one interview with the candidate Wednesday.   We hope to have excerpts from it during our ABC-7 News programs tomorrow afternoon.

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