Around Politics: Illinois gubernatorial politics and a note about the Supreme Court

The long-awaited announcement from former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar has now come and gone. His decision not to run was no surprise, but the prospect that he may have run was tantalizing.

Republicans in this state are reeling from a host of setbacks at the ballot box, along with a slew of retirements from the General Assembly. Edgar was viewed as a catalyst for a reinvigoration.

In his relatively low-key press conference, Edgar acknowledged he thought other Republicans could win, too, but he would never run for office.

The “other” Republicans in the mix for Governor are State Sen. Steve Rauschenberger, downstate Sen. Bill Brady, dairyman Jim Oberweis, and businessman Ron Gidwitz. All are solid, respected candidates, but then there is the $20 million question.

Yes, $20 million is the rough estimate of the war chest belonging to current Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Republicans had hoped Democrats would field a primary challenger to force the Governor to spend down his reserves, but that seems to be on hold, perhaps permanently. All of the potential challengers, with the exception of Gidwitz, do not have the dollar-for-dollar resources to swat punches with the Governor. It was believed that only Edgar could get the spigot flowing again.

The only hope that Republicans have at this time is the possibility of implosion on the part of the Governor. Some issues are floating around related to “pay to play,” the negative connotation meant to describe the condition by which state contracts are awarded. A few “friends of Rod” have been accused of this practice, but the jury is out, no pun intended, as to whether the current administration will ever reach the depths that the George Ryan administration plumbed. Those gubinitoral depths could determine the next election.

An update on the Supreme Court is in order here. Judge John Roberts, whose name was put forth by the Bush administration to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court created by the retirement of Justice Sandra Day-O’Connor, instead was nominated to the Chief Justice vacancy created by the death of William Rehnquist. New Chief Justice Roberts was approved by the Senate and was one vote short of getting a majority of Democrats to support him.

Now the Bush administration is focusing on filling the O’Connor vacancy. They chose Harriet Miers a non-judge. As MSNBC reports New York Sen. Charles Schumer as saying: “We know even less about Harriet Miers than we did about John Roberts, and because this is the critical swing seat on the court, Americans will need to know a lot more about Miers’ judicial philosophy and legal background before any vote for confirmation.”

It will be interesting to watch male Senate Democrats on the Judiciary Committee question a woman on so-called “women’s issues.” O’Connor was viewed as the swing vote on issues such as abortion, so the process is likely to become very highly charged and much more interesting to watch than the previous one. We are sure to see the full spectacle of left-wing politics for the next month or so.

Jim Thacker is a political consultant and columnist.

From the Oct. 5-11, 2005, issue

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