CHICAGO (AP) — The job of Illinois lieutenant governor — often ridiculed as a do-nothing office that at least one person quit out of boredom — is about to take on a whole new significance.
For the first time, candidates for governor — who until now have run separately from candidates for lieutenant governor — must select running mates and be on a ticket with them. Several campaigns say they’ll announce their 2014 picks on or around Sept. 3, the date when candidates may begin circulating petitions to get on the March primary ballot. Others plan to wait until later in the fall.
Just as in a presidential election, the choice will have the potential to help or hurt a campaign, so candidates say they’re considering their options carefully. They also say running as a ticket will help them better define their priorities for voters and cover more ground as election season gets underway.
“Two voices are stronger than one,” said state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington, one of four Republicans seeking the GOP nomination.
Candidates and their parties also hope the new process will help avert a disaster like 2010, when it was revealed shortly after the primary that the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor had been arrested on domestic battery charges and had used steroids. Scott Lee Cohen eventually dropped out, bowing to pressure from party leaders who feared his inclusion on the ballot could hurt Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn’s chances.
Democratic officials put Sheila Simon on the ballot instead, and later that year lawmakers passed and Quinn signed legislation to change how the lieutenant governor candidates are selected.
The new way of doing things gives candidates a chance to round out their ticket by choosing someone who could appeal to a certain demographic or who brings a particular expertise they may be lacking. That could mean several of the all-male field of candidates will choose women as running mates, or that downstate candidates could look for someone from Chicago’s suburbs, and vice versa.
But the candidates or their spokespeople all insisted that those kinds of political calculations weren’t driving their decision-making. They said they’re looking for balance and someone who can help run the state and step in and replace him if needed.
“My No. 1 priority was would this individual both in reality and perception-wise (among voters) be able to succeed me,” said state Treasurer Dan Rutherford, a Chenoa Republican who said he’s already picked someone and will make the name public in the next few weeks.
Brady said he expects to announce his running mate around Labor Day, and an adviser to state Sen. Kirk Dillard said the Hinsdale Republican plans to make his choice public around then, too.
Mike Schrimpf, a spokesman for Bruce Rauner, said the Republican businessman’s campaign likely won’t have an announcement until later in the year. He said Rauner mainly is looking for someone who shares his willingness to “take on the special interests in Springfield.”
Quinn, who became the first Illinois lieutenant governor in more than three decades to ascend to the state’s top spot when now-imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich was booted out of office, is looking for a replacement for Simon, who’s running for comptroller. He said he’s looking for “a people person” who can relate to ordinary citizens, adding that he’s heard from a lot of potential running mates and plans to sit down and talk with them.
Former White House chief of staff Bill Daley, who’s challenging Quinn in the Democratic primary, would like a running mate with private sector management experience who’s also worked with elected officials, spokesman Pete Giangreco said.
Quinn and Daley, both Chicago Democrats, said they don’t feel bound to make their decisions by the Sept. 3 petition date. The choice must be on the petitions when signatures are collected, and the deadline to turn in those petitions is in early December.
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