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02/08/2010

Scott Lee Cohen's Replacement

  Who is Mike Madigan's choice to replace Scott Lee Cohen?

  The Illinois Democratic Party, often described in recent years as "dysfunctional", is about to undertake a process to select a replacement lieutenant governor candidate.  The actual selection will  be done in a vote by the 38-member Democratic Central Committee, headed by party chairman, Illinois House Speaker and political "boss of  bosses" Michael Madigan. 

  The central committee is made up of one male and one female from each of the state's 19 congressional districts.  Their vote is "weighted" depending on how many people took democratic ballots in respective districts in the February 2nd primary.  The group's next scheduled meeting is March 15th but it could happen earlier if Madigan so desires.

  An obvious choice to replace Cohen is State Representative Art Turner of Chicago's west side.  Turner finished second to Cohen on election day and late Sunday night issued a statement indicating he would accept an appointment to the ticket.  Turner has been part of Speaker Madigan's inner circle for years and received Madigan's individual endorsement in his failed campaign.

  But check this out:  If Turner joins Pat Quinn (Governor), Jesse White (Secretary of State), Lisa Madigan (Attorney General), Robin Kelly (Treasurer), and David Miller (Comptroller) on the November ballot...four of the democrats running for the state's six "constitutional" offices will be African-American.  How will that ticket play in parts of downstate Illinois?  Will the republicans "whisper" racism into the campaign? 

  Now there's news that Comptroller Dan Hynes, who lost a bitter primary race to Quinn by half a per cent, is not interested in a place on the ticket.  450,000 people voted for Hynes last week so such a move could have helped "heal" the party.  It also would have resurrected the 41 year old Hynes' political career which was all but left for dead when he conceded the race last Thursday.   I guess he really does want out of the game.

  Beyond Turner and lower place finishers in the lieutenant gov. primary, the list of possible appointees ranges from downstaters who could give the democratic ticket "regional balance" to other candidates who fell short in close races last week.  Two that come to mind are state representative Julie Hamos of Evanston who lost the 10th district congressional primary to Dan Seals, and Raja Krishnamoorthi who narrowly lost the nomination for comptroller to Miller.

  And definitely rule in Tammy Duckworth, the state's former Veterans Affairs director who is serving the Obama administration in the Federal Veterans Administration.  She reportedly is a favorite of Governor Quinn. 

  Expect democratic leaders to make frequent use of the word "transparency" during the upcoming days and weeks.  But make no mistake, in classic Madigan style, this will be a back room deal only to be rubber-stamped by the central committee in a public vote. 

  Because he won the primary, expect Pat Quinn to try to assert himself in the process of finding his running mate.   But Quinn will re-discover soon enough that "governor" is still the second most powerful position among democrats in Illinois.

   

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