Here’s the Sheila Simon conundrum. Her father, Paul Simon, inspired a change in the way Illinois elects its lieutenant governors, by serving as the mismatched deputy of a Republican. So now, we elect the governor and his lieutenant on the same ticket.
If Simon could run on her own against Jason Plummer, she’d chase him right back to his daddy’s lumberyard.
Of course, if Paul Simon had never been elected lieutenant governor, he might not have built the political career that’s provided his daughter with the family name on which she’s built her own career.
In Tuesday night’s lieutenant governor debate on Chicago Tonight, the senator’s daughter debated Republican candidate Jason Plummer, a millionaire’s son, on whether it’s better to inherit a political legacy or a family fortune.
Plummer, who is a vice president at his family’s lumber business in Edwardsville, told host Phil Ponce that being a businessman means he shouldn’t have to release his tax returns.
“Bill Brady and I come from the private sector,” he said. “Pat Quinn and Sheila Simon come from the public [sic] sector. I could Google Pat Quinn’s tax returns and know what he made. It’s different when you’re in the public sector. I don’t hold public office.”
Simon, as much of a straight arrow as her father, actually brought her tax returns to the debate, in a manila folder.
“You can learn important things about me,” she said. “You can see that because our older daughter went to school, we cashed in a savings bond. You can see that there’s no conflict of interest between me and the state of Illinois.”
Plummer was a much more articulate and self-assured candidate than he was on his first Chicago Tonight debate, but some of his confidence sprang from the arrogance of ignorance and irresponsibility. It was easy for Plummer to put Simon on the defensive because she has a record to defend. Plummer doesn’t. He did score points when he blamed the state’s inability to provide for the needy on Pat Quinn’s fiscal mismanagement.
“Because of Pat Quinn’s fiscal irresponsibility, our most vulnerable people are not being served,” Plummer said, in response to a question about a man without health insurance who couldn’t afford to have his teeth fixed. “Social service providers are laying people off, they’re closing centers around the state.”
But when Plummer suggested the state spent over $1 billion a year on fraudulent Medicaid expenditures, Simon responded, “I don’t think there are any easy targets. If there were easy targets, I think Sen. Brady would have proposed cutting them in the 17 years he’s been in the House and Senate.”
During a lightning round, the candidates disagreed on concealed weapons (Plummer yes, Simon no), banning abortion (Plummer yes, Simon no) and teaching creationism in public schools (Plummer thinks it should be up to local school boards, Simon wants kids taught "science.")
Plummer also attacked Simon as a dirty politician, claiming the Daily Egpytian, the Southern Illinois University student paper, withdrew its endorsement of her campaign for mayor of Carbondale. In fact, the paper appears to have endorsed Simon in the primary, then endorsed her opponent in the runoff. The paper cited Simon’s “campaign of disinformation and baseless attacks,” but also complained that she wanted to close bars to students under 21.
“The only attacks I’ve made can’t be on your record, because you don’t have a record, but on your running mate’s record,” Simon told Plummer.