Maybe Bill Brady should have had a long talk with Glenn Poshard before he ran for governor. Because Brady just learned the same lesson Poshard absorbed in 1998: a socially conservative candidate cannot be elected governor of Illinois.
Poshard, a Democratic congressman from Southern Illinois, was a deeply religious Baptist and a strong opponent of abortion -- he called himself a “whole life Democrat” because he also supported social programs for mothers and infants. During the campaign, he enraged the gay community when one of his aides suggested that anti-gay doctors should not be required to treat gay patients. The aide was fired, but Poshard still refused to refused to support gay rights legislation.
Poshard’s Republican opponent, George Ryan, sponsored a float in that year’s Gay Pride Parade. That November, he swept the Lakefront wards, stealing essential Democratic votes from Poshard.
Ryan may have been corrupt, but he was a canny politician. Back in the day, as speaker of the house, he conspired with Phyllis Schlafly to stamp out the Equal Rights Amendment. That right-wing outlook was OK for a representative from Kankakee, but not for a governor.
Unlike Ryan, Brady refused to moderate his views for a statewide audience. Right after winning the February primary, he filed a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. When he was questioned about his anti-gay views, or his support for gun rights, Brady insisted that voters really wanted to talk about jobs. The term “values voters” is a usually applied to conservatives, but liberals vote on values, too -- values of tolerance, diversity and opposition to guns. Brady couldn’t get voters to ignore a career devoted to opposing those views, although his staff tried to hide his record by editing his Wikipedia bio. Even Quinn’s infamous puppy-gassing ad appealed to liberal, urban values. Unlike rural voters, who see animals as utilitarian, plenty of single, urban apartment dwellers regard their dogs as substitute family members.
Anti-abortion candidates also turn off suburban women, who are the key to winning any race in Illinois. As Michael Sneed reported in today's Sun-Times, "GOP gubernatorial hopeful Bill Brady got machine-gunned by suburban women voters deluged by direct mailings last week highlighting his 'socially-right-wing-not-exactly-pro-female agenda,' according to a GOP source." If Monica from Park Ridge won’t vote for you, you have no chance.
Now we know why Brady wants to make Illinois more like Indiana or Tennessee. He could have won in those states.