Wednesday, March 19, 2014

In some ways, the 2014 primaries brought out the best in Illinois politics

Posted By on 03.19.14 at 08:23 AM

Governor Pat Quinn wants voters to know that, unlike Republican foe Bruce Rauner, he aint no fortunate son.
  • Andrew A. Nelles/Sun-Times
  • Governor Pat Quinn wants voters to know that, unlike Republican foe Bruce Rauner, he ain't no fortunate son.

The November election season started even before the primary votes were counted Tuesday.

For months Republican gubernatorial hopeful Bruce Rauner has been blasting away at Governor Pat Quinn, calling him inept, weak, and wasteful. Last night Quinn released his first attack ads painting Rauner as a Mitt Romney of Illinois—someone so wealthy he's detached from the lives of working people.

Just because they said it doesn't mean it's untrue. And seven and a half more months of these bruising exchanges are on the way.

Still, that's not the only story line to emerge from the primaries. There were plenty of other highlights in state and local races. Here are a few of the most notable:

Best individual effort to boost the state economy by dropping a few million bucks on campaign ads: Bruce Rauner. The multimillionaire venture capitalist raised more than $6 million, gave his campaign $6 million more of his own money, and then spent at least $7 million of it to win the Republican nomination. That works out to $22 a vote. Here's betting the figure climbs in November.

Best use of classic rock chestnuts to end a speech about ethics reform and the minimum wage: Governor Pat Quinn. After coasting to a primary victory over Tio Hardiman, the governor took aim at Rauner by proclaiming, "I'll fight for everyone, not just the billionaires." He then walked off the stage to Manfred Mann's "Quinn the Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)"—a satisfactory if obvious choice, though he should have used Dylan's original version. It was followed by John Fogerty and CCR declaring, "I ain't no fortunate son."

Best attempt to show you're the boss even if you're not quite the boss anymore: Cook County assessor and Democratic Party chairman Joe Berrios. The longtime power broker reportedly booted a Sun-Times reporter from his daughter Toni's election-night gathering as it became clear her campaign was losing the 39th District statehouse race. Meanwhile, challenger Will Guzzardi promised reform and won a whopping 61 percent of the votes. Yet the chairman still has clout. If Toni ends up on another public payroll, she won't be the first Berrios to do so, or the 15th.

Best opportunity to focus on staying out of prison: State rep Derrick Smith. Two years ago Smith won reelection in the Tenth District even after being indicted for taking a bribe and getting kicked out of the legislature by his colleagues. His winning streak ended yesterday when he was toppled by attorney Pamela Reaves-Harris. Smith's next campaign will come in federal court, where he's scheduled to go on trial in May.

Best transition from lockup to third place: Ike Carothers. After serving federal time for bribery, the former alderman and west-side ward boss frightened the political establishment with his campaign for the county board. But somehow he couldn't convince voters to entrust him with public office again. Carothers finished behind attorney and lobbyist Richard Boykin, a protege of his longtime foe Danny Davis, as well as attorney Blake Sercye, who had the support of board President Toni Preckwinkle and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Best chance to check the math skills of the election apparatus: The 26th District statehouse race. Trailing by a few hundred votes, challenger Jay Travis has refused to concede to incumbent Christian Mitchell. Travis said she'd received reports of "voter suppression and intimidation," which apparently isn't legal in Chicago.

Best interview offer that everyone decided they could refuse: Water reclamation district commissioner Mariyana Spyropoulos. Before the official speeches began at Quinn's victory gathering, Senator Richard Durbin, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Preckwinkle, and other Democratic bigwigs milled around giving interviews to reporters. Spyropoulos filed past the media area with a look of amusement. "Anyone want to talk about the water rec races?" she said. "Anyone? Anyone?" The reporters avoided eye contact.

Best explanation for halting an interview at Quinn's election party: Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, who pivoted away from me as an attractive woman approached him offering a hug and a kiss. "Excuse me, Mick," White said, "but I need to get a little love."

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