The political circus is already in full effect around Illinois. Candidates for statewide offices are launching campaigns or switching strategies. They're jockeying for position and for an advantage over competition that sometimes seems to change by the day. This week's State Capitol Q&A takes a closer look at the state's political scene as it prepares to hit full stride this fall.
The political circus is already in full effect around Illinois.
Candidates for statewide offices are launching campaigns or switching strategies. They're jockeying for position and for an advantage over competition that sometimes seems to change by the day.
This week's State Capitol Q&A takes a closer look at the state's political scene as it prepares to hit full stride this fall.
Q: What's the latest on who's running next year?
A: The fields for the statewide races are becoming clearer. But with about a month before the ballot is finalized, there are still more shakeups in store.
At the top is the governor's race. Gov. Pat Quinn and Comptroller Dan Hynes are the two main Democratic challengers and already have been at each other's throats repeatedly.
On the Republican side, state Sens. Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard are in the top tier. Andy McKenna and Matt Murphy shook things up a bit by announcing that Murphy, a state senator from the Chicago suburbs, would drop down to lieutenant governor and team up with McKenna, the former GOP state chairman now running for governor.
The frontrunners for U.S. Senate are Democrat Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and Republican Congressman Mark Kirk, although primary opponents could give both a test.
Of the other statewide offices, lieutenant governor is still a popular position with as many as 15 candidates from both parties seeking that post.
Q: Why have some candidates already dropped out or changed course?
A: Running for statewide office is never easy. It takes money, time, dedication and support to travel a state with nearly 13 million people, meet voters in all areas and bring in the cash to run a credible, successful campaign.
In some cases, potential candidates realize they aren't able to do well enough in those areas to make a run. Other times, who else is in the race causes a change of heart.
State Rep. Dave Winters dropped out of the Republican race for lieutenant governor shortly after Murphy decided to go for the No. 2 spot. Winters will run for re-election.
Justin Oberman decided to run for treasurer rather than lieutenant governor on the Democratic side.
"The decision to run for treasurer was not easy, but I am certain it is the right choice," Oberman said in a statement. "As I traveled throughout our state, it became clear that I could better achieve Illinois' agenda of reform and creating jobs as treasurer."
Q: What's the next step for these candidates?
A: Candidates don't officially file until Monday, Oct. 26, and filing runs for a week. Candidates will line up early on the 26th outside the State Board of Elections offices in Springfield to get a shot at the top spot on the ballot.
Between now and then, watch for more candidates to drop out and change course.
Some lawmakers who have been eyeing a run at higher office could follow Winters' lead and decide re-election is the better path. State Rep. Jack Franks, a Marengo Democrat who has gained fame from being a staunch critic of impeached former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, decided recently to run for another term rather than challenge Hynes and Quinn for governor.
Others just getting into the political arena will decide against running for a major statewide office in their introduction to voters.
Once the ballot is finalized in a few weeks, the campaigns will heat up. The primary is Tuesday, Feb. 2 – the earliest it's ever been. That doesn't leave much time for little-known candidates to separate themselves from the pack, and the holiday season will make that job even tougher.
Ryan Keith can be reached at (217) 788-1518 or firstname.lastname@example.org.