The new law requiring governor and lieutenant governor candidates to run on a single ticket in the primaries will be remembered as Scott Lee Cohen’s lone contribution to Illinois politics. But I can think of four other people who can take just as much credit for the law’s existence: Art Turner, Rickey Hendon, Mike Boland and Terry Link.
That was the quartet of career politicians who appeared on the ballot with Cohen in February. Their indifference to campaigning and unwillingness to raise or spend money allowed Cohen to buy the nomination with $2 million of his own money. Cohen was on TV constantly, building name recognition he cashed in for votes on Primary Day. Except for this bizarre radio spot from Hendon , the other candidates barely advertised.
You know why they barely advertised? Because the lieutenant governorship isn’t worth $2 million. The lieutenant governor runs a few insignificant state agencies -- the Rural Affairs Council, the Rural Bond Bank, the Illinois Main Street Program, and the Illinois River Coordinating Council – and waits for the governor to die or get indicted. It’s a stepping-stone job that occasionally leads to political glory for a talented or lucky occupant, such as Paul Simon or Pat Quinn.
This new law will restore sanity to the market for lieutenant governorships. Never again will a wealthy dilettante like Cohen – or Jason Plummer – be able to spend millions to win an office that’s worth, at best, 400 grand. From now on, the cost of running for lite gov will be folded into a campaign for real gov, resulting in less expensive, more efficient politicking.
The irony of Pat Quinn signing this law? If it had been in place eight years ago, he wouldn’t be governor. Nobody would have chosen a self-proclaimed political outsider like Quinn as a running mate. Especially not a self-proclaimed political insider like Rod Blagojevich.