Wednesday, February 02, 2005

And, they are off and running in the March, 2006 Republican Gubernatorial Primary.

Since WTTW continues to ignore the Republican Party, being fair and balanced, we will have to fill the hole in their public policy/political coverage with "Public Affairs."
The “short list,” for the Republican nomination for Governor for 2006, listed in order of likelihood of getting the nomination.

1. STATE SENATOR STEVE RAUSCHENBERGER. The motto of this campaign for the next six months: It's the money, stupid. Steve, a 13 year state senator from Elgin, or thereabouts, must focus like a laser beam on raising funds, and he may be doing just that. Claims he was second in raising money in the 2004 U. S. Senate race [where he finished 3rd of 4 serious candidates, with a strong finishing kick and 21%]. Also claims he will find it much easier to raise money in a “State” race due to the virtual lack of donor caps. Has the potential to reach the Republican base as a conservative and ultimately reach across party lines because he will be viewed as knowledgeable about the issues, practical and likeable. A conservative, Republican version of Paul Vallas, but Steve might win the primary and the General. And like Vallas, Steve swept most of the newsroom editorial board endorsements.

2. CONG. RAY LAHOOD. A 10 year, popular congressman from west and west-Central Illinois, Ray may not only “Play in Peoria,” but also in downstate areas outside of Peoria. Apparently, Ray has been promised substantial support from what remains of the Republican- Metropolitan Chicago, Civic, Business Establishment. This group would prefer someone who is a social liberal, but their real priority is to get control of someone who can win in the Republican Primary and maintain their power, for them, on other issues closer to home. Thus, they will align themselves with Ray and hope he can be molded, a bit, on those social issues. They feel confident that Ray will play ball with them on the other Establishment issues, e.g., don’t rock the Mayor Daley boat, strengthen O’Hare and maintain wealth transfers to the business elite. Ray LaHood views himself as a conservative, but many conservatives do not and his anti-Peter Fitzgerald statements and actions, which he now downplays, are likely to be a deal breaker, especially with conservatives who do not come from downstate. Indeed, LaHood may lose some of the downstaters, as well, on the Fitz issue.

3. JIM OBERWEIS. Most underrated of the six candidates. Knows how to communicate in a variety of contexts, knows how to excite a crowd- especially among conservatives. Ran for the U. S. Senate twice, capturing second place and 25% as a runner-up to JACK RYAN in the 2004 primary. Unlike many otherwise smart candidates, Jim has worked hard at becoming a smarter, more polished candidate, and he has spent time doing that during the last year. Oberweis is having some success at that. He is a more polished candidate than he was in his last run. Has significant wealth, but has been unwilling to spend really large amounts on his own campaigns. A major problem is that he has made two strategic gaffes in his two U. S. Senate runs— likening pro-lifers to the Taliban and going over the line on illegal immigration. Jim still has the same core beliefs on immigration but he would handle it much better this time. On abortion, nobody questions his pro-life credentials at this moment in time. The third time around the political track could be the charm for Jim Oberweis.

4. JUDY BAAR TOPINKA. Three term Treasurer and she just finished her rocky, tortuous two year tenure as State GOP Chair. Judy is way too liberal, has made too many deals of personal convenience with the Democrats and has angered way too many conservatives to be on this short list. In short, she might be very lucky to get a re-nomination for Treasurer, but “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” And, Judy has been scorned. In this case, her fury could take her farther than she should go. Most importantly, Judy can't possibly win unless at least two conservatives split the conservative vote. However, because she might be the only liberal Republican in the primary, because many think she might still be a heckuva campaigner and because it is possible that the conservatives won’t be able to agree on one standard bearer [for this discussion, LaHood, oddly, is a liberal, not a conservative-- despite holding many conservative views], Judy could still do it, but I wouldn’t bet the ranch on it.

5. DUPAGE COUNTY STATE'S ATTORNEY JOE BIRKETT. Joe lost to then State Senator [and daughter of Illinois Statehouse Speaker Mike Madigan] Lisa Madigan by only three points for Attorney General in 2002. However, Lisa had her own problems in that campaign, so we can overplay the significance of that margin. Smart, articulate and aggressive, Joe continues to carry a lot of baggage in his backpack, including Rolando Cruz and Brian Dugan, etc. And, he is in debt from his 2002 campaign. Joe is taking a look at this. But, for him to get in, he has to deal with the baggage and the debt, and then he still starts near the bottom. Definitely a darkhorse.

6. FORMER 10 YEAR STATE SENATOR PAT O’MALLEY [Palos Park]. Has money and a very conservative and faithful following. Smart, has a strong, consistently conservative philosophy and is very sincere. Rumored to be a financial backer of the online conservative voice- the Illinois Leader. Is a reformer and could argue he was the first to paint a picture of George Ryan as a corrupt pol. Got 29% of the vote in the 2002 Republican Gubernatorial Primary, coming in second to Jim Ryan’s 44% and ahead of Corinne Wood’s 27%. He is convinced he would have gotten almost all of Jim Ryan’s vote, if Jim had not been there. Might be right, but maybe I could have, too, and I am not running for Governor this year. Image of not being able to win the General Election and his idea of what it means to act on principle are likely barriers to Pat having a significant shot at winning the nomination. Also, his lukewarm support, at best, for Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Ryan in the 2002 General Election will not help him in this endeavor. He might think that his demonstrated willingness to be a “spoiler” will clear the field of Republican gubernatorial candidates. I disagree. And, Pat, of course, is, at heart, a nice guy. But, we know what Leo Durocher said about nice guys.
Jeff Berkowitz, Host and Producer of Public Affairs and an Executive Recruiter doing Legal Search, can be reached at