Friday, December 02, 2005

Rep. Watson: Topinka’s running mate, I presume.

State Rep. Jim Watson [R-Jacksonville] is said to be high on the short list of Lt. Gov. candidates that Republican Primary Gubernatorial candidate Judy Baar Topinka is looking to for her selection of a running mate. Watson and Judy spoke about this in some detail a few months ago when former Governor Jim Edgar was still in the mix as a possible Gubernatorial candidate. Perhaps Judy just likes to be prepared, or maybe she knew something we didn’t know.

Rep. Watson and Topinka spoke a few weeks ago, after Topinka announced unofficially that she would be a candidate. However, that was a brief discussion, by phone, intended primarily as a courtesy call to let Watson know that Judy was going to be in the race. Watson indicated on Thursday evening that he has had no communications with Judy since.

Watson, almost 40, was in the Marine Corps and Marine Corps reserves for six years, serving his last year in the Marines over in Desert Storm. He taught high school for two years and has been in the State House for the last four years, with his district located right in the middle of the heartland, pretty much in the center of the State. State Rep. Watson is a family man, married with three kids.

With about ten years of business experience, Watson is also a social conservative, having voted against the gay rights legislation that became law this year, and he opposes abortion being legal, except for instances when the life of the mother is at issue or in cases of rape or incest. State Rep. Jim Watson opposes same sex marriage.

On the other hand, Rep. Watson thinks he is compatible with Judy as her Lt. Gov. candidate, notwithstanding her socially moderate, or as Jim Oberweis would put it, liberal views. Watson also thinks Topinka is the only Republican candidate for Governor who can defeat Governor Blagojevich. And, if all three conservatives stay in the primary, he thinks Judy surely wins that race.

Watson is pragmatic, so to speak. Perhaps even a pragmatic conservative, but he probably is not a pragmatic moderate conservative, in the lingo of the Chicago Tribune editorial board, due to his conservative positions on social issues.

Watson essentially says, look—the political landscape of the General Assembly will not change in 2006, that is-- Democrats Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President Emil Jones will still be presiding over House and Senate Democratic majorities, respectively. So, nothing will be different on the social issue front, no matter who the Governor is and no matter what the Governor’s views are on abortion, etc. That is, abortion will not be made illegal and existing gay rights legislation will not be repealed.

But, says Rep. Jim Watson, on the fiscal issues, that’s where it really matters if the Governor is a Republican or Democrat. For example, Watson talks about the State’s debt under Blago going from 9.5 billion dollars to 23.6 billion dollars, imposing a big burden on "our children and grandchildren."

In short, Watson argues the fiscal stuff dominates the social issues stuff. That is, he says, a Republican Governor could reverse Blagojevich’s budget mistakes, over-borrowing and other fiscal policies. But, a Republican Governor can’t really do much, at this time, on the social issues, or at least that is Watson’s view. [Watson seems to ignore the power of a socially conservative Governor to restrain future, liberal social issue legislation by exercising a gubernatorial veto and, of course, to engage in moral suasion by using the bully pulpit or authority of the Governor’s mansion.]

Therefore, Rep. Jim Watson would be happy to travel the state to try to persuade conservatives and downstaters, whatever their ideology, to get on the Topinka-Watson bandwagon. And, he thinks he would be effective “up to a point.” He says there are some conservatives who he just can’t turn around. But, as to the others, he thinks he can speak to them and persuade them what is at stake in terms of the State’s fiscal health and why they should vote for Topinka.

Watson said Judy and he discussed the above, i.e., social issues and fiscal issues, how Judy and he differ and how they would work that out. They had that conversation when they spoke a few months ago.

Watson emphasized that State Rep. Raymond Poe [R-Springfield], one of several announced Lt. Gov. candidates in the Republican Primary, and he are good friends and Poe has been very helpful to Watson in his short political career. Watson said he would not run again Poe. However, if Poe were to become convinced that he should not run or otherwise decide not to run, then Watson would join the Topinka ticket, if he gets the call-- that is.

Reliable sources tell me that Topinka will make the call to her choice for a Lt. Gov. running mate today or this weekend.

Although Doug Whitley [President, Illinois State Chamber of Commerce] is still said to be in the mix, if I were a betting man-- I would put my chips on Rep. Jim Watson. Watson brings more old-fashioned geographic and ideological balance to the ticket than Whitley. That kind of balance has been out of vogue in recent years, either in Illinois or nationally—but maybe it’s time for a change, says Judy Baar Topinka
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