Sheriff Tom Dart Skipping the 2010 Senate Race to Run for Re-election | Bleader

Friday, September 4, 2009

Sheriff Tom Dart Skipping the 2010 Senate Race to Run for Re-election

Posted By on 09.04.09 at 01:39 PM

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Sheriff Tom Dart has been recruited by national Democratic leaders to run for the U.S. Senate next year. But a source in the know tells me he's going to pull a Lisa Madigan and run for re-election to his current gig.

Speculation about Dart's plans has been heating up for months, especially since Madigan announced she was declining overtures from the White House and other Democratic leaders to jump into the race for the Senate seat now held by Roland Burris, who's said he's not running in 2010. On Wednesday Dart posted a message on his Facebook page saying that he'd be making an announcement about his future shortly. My source tells me that the announcement will come early next week—perhaps via Facebook—and that he'll say he wants to remain sheriff, both because he has five young kids at home (one just a couple months old) and because he actually likes the job.

It doesn't sound like it was an easy decision, because Dart, like Madigan before him, was recently approached by top Dems in Washington who told him that if he went for the Senate seat they'd make sure he didn't have to worry about raising money. That's no small thing in any race, but it's a huge freaking thing in this one because Democratic front-runner Alexi Giannoulias has already piled up $1.6 million in campaign funds and has the personal fortune and connections to raise gazillions more.

Dart is clearly viewed as a rising star. He's made reforms that appeal to progressives but has strong ties to old-school Chicago political organizations as well as downstate legislators. And he's savvy about choosing hot-button issues to take a stand on before the TV cameras.

And both parties want this seat badly—Dems need it to hold onto their filibuster-proof Senate majority, and the GOP would love the symbolic triumph of reclaiming the office Barack Obama held before becoming president.

But what's really, really interesting about all of this is the obvious unease top party leaders have about Giannoulias's prospects. Giannoulias, currently the state treasurer, is telegenic, progressive, and organized in addition to having plenty of money. So the question is whether his known soft spots—such as the loans made to organized crime figures by the bank his family owns—are what's wigging them out, or whether there's another big problem out there that they fear Republican Mark Kirk is waiting to exploit.

On top of that, last week city inspector general David Hoffman resigned and announced that he was running for Senate—and that he'd hired AKPD Media, the consulting firm founded and run by top Obama advisers.

Hoffman is way behind on name recognition and fund-raising, and despite some notable endorsements recently fellow contender Cheryle Jackson has yet to gain much traction. With Dart choosing to remain out, Giannoulias is clearly in the lead. If the Democratic Party can't live with him as its candidate it's going to have to find somebody else fast. The clock is ticking, and there's always a chance the Republicans won't find a way to lose this one before it can be won.

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