State Fair Politics

Hogs and dogs

No state fair is complete in Illinois without some oddly entertaining political theater.

This year's event was no exception, as each party tried to mask political infighting and dysfunction on days designated to celebrate their specialness.

Republican state chairman Andy McKenna, for example, managed to stomp all over his party's message - as it were - by announcing on Thursday that he was stepping down. Maybe there was a better time than Republican Day at the Illinois State Fair to send another signal of instability in the party's ranks.

Not that Republican Day was otherwise scintillating.

Fair visitors were probably not terribly conflicted about having to choose between seeing DuPage County board president and gubernatorial candidate Robert Schillerstrom speaking at Abes Trading Post and state senator and gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady speaking at Sangamon County Republican Headquarters.

Two other guys who aren't going to be governor were modestly more entertaining to watch. State Sen. Matt Murphy put up an ad attacking state Sen. Kirk Dillard.

And then they all went out for cotton candy.

Democrats had their day on Wednesday, and they, too, tried to pretend everything was hunky-dory, which it is for the lot of them, but not at the top of the ticket.

Indeed, Gov. Pat Quinn and state comptroller Dan Hynes - gubernatorial primary rivals - showed they are more than ready to rumble.

“You can stand on the sidelines and throw bricks at the guy in the middle of the arena,” Quinn said in an obvious but not very effective jab at Hynes. “Part of the job of governor is not to be a shrinking violet, to take positions and defend those positions.”

Said Hynes: "This nomination must be earned, not bequeathed, assigned or transferred. We need a leader who will offer a clear, consistent and compelling vision for our future.”

(When you find one, Dan, let us know.)

The governor also gets to have his own day, sort of. Like Democrat Day, Governor's Day was on Wednesday. Iowa Gov. Chet Culver came in to keynote the Governor's Day Brunch, which only sounds like a draw to me if Culver were to kill the pigs and slice the ham with his bare hands.

All in all, nobody was hurt badly, though Quinn was perhaps flustered and Republicans dinged.

No blue ribbons to award, just a few honorable mentions.

Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review.

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