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02/25/2010

Cullerton's "Moment of Clarity"

  How about that Illinois Senate vote Wednesday to move the state's primary election from the first Tuesday in February back to when it used to be scheduled on the third Tuesday in March.  

  Eleven months after receiving it, President John Cullerton's chamber heeded the advice of the Illinois Reform Commission which said a primary in the dead of winter so soon after the holidays is a disadvantage to challengers, discourages voter participation and sets up a too-expensive, nine months long general election campaign.  Expect Speaker Michael Madigan's House to pass a similar bill shortly.

  (For history's sake, the primary date was pushed up to the first week in February to jumpstart then-Senator Barack Obama's 2008 democratic primary campaign for President.  The assumption then was that the date would be moved back to March in anticipation of the 2010 primary when voters nominated all of the state's constitutional officers and most of its lawmakers)

  The fact remains that the General Assembly's powers-that-be could have done this last year and made fairer the election three weeks ago.  Former IRC chairman Patrick Collins told me the 2009 non-decision was like "passing an incumbents protection act" in Illinois because the short campaign season favored those already in office and gave Cullerton and Madigan the best chance to sustain their democratic majorities in the Senate and House. 

  Now, think about the candidates who lost close races who could have used another six weeks to get across their messages.  Democrat Dan Hynes and republican Kirk Dillard in their respective primary races for governor are two that come to mind immediately.  Democrats David Hoffman for the U.S. Senate and Raja Krishnamoorthi for Illinois Comptroller were coming on strong near the ends of their campaigns and could have used more time.  And Lord knows how many candidates in local races would have benefited from a more informed and involved electorate. 

  Those close losers February 2nd could be part of the "collateral damage" wrought by Cullerton and Madigan's selfishness on the election scheduling issue.

  And they want us to believe they act in our best interests?


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