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In Illinois, political campaigning never ends

Don’t feel bad about your apathy toward the 2014 election.

This isn’t a period for voters to get excited – or even interested – in next year’s campaign.

This is the period when people who want to be candidates tell the public they want to be candidates, or maybe that they are thinking about being candidates.

So, if the public reaction involves a yawn or a laugh, they still have time to bow out of the race before they commit too much time or money to a futile attempt to get elected.

Just part of the natural selection process in politics.

FORGIVE THOSE OF us in the media who play along with the game.

But we believe too much information is almost always better than too little, especially in choosing government leaders.

So even in the earliest stages of the campaign, we are doing interviews, covering press conferences, and attending political rallies in the hope that none of us will be surprised when the actual filings to run for office in 2014 start pouring in late this year.

Plus, voters in the Sauk Valley will have several interesting political campaigns to follow.

On the local level, the county sheriff’s office usually attracts a lot of attention – and candidates.

Regionally, the mid-term election for Congress should be wild in the 17th District – and mild in the 16th.

Statewide, the race for governor might be the most important campaign the state has seen in decades.

OK, so are you at least a little bit interested?

WINNING VOTES is not important this early.

This is a time for raising money and/or awareness, depending on the geography the campaign must cover and the public’s familiarity with the prospective candidate.

Candidates who are climbing into the race this early are not necessarily desperate, but they do recognize the challenge of 1) winning public recognition as a step toward voter approval, and 2) overcoming the political advantages of incumbents or other high-profile hopefuls in the race.

Everyone needs a constituency to win, and if you don’t have one, you need an early start toward building it.

That core group becomes the basis for campaign contributions and volunteers, which become increasingly important the higher up on the ballot the contested office appears.

So, ready or not, the 2014 campaign is under way.

HOW MUCH DO YOU remember about the 2010 election?

That is pretty much the ballot of 2014, too.

Republican Mark Kirk was elected to a first term in the U.S. Senate in 2010, and Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin is likely to win a fourth term next year if he wants it.

We elected Democrat Pat Quinn governor over one of the Republican Brady Bunch in an extremely tight race that, in the wake of the Blagojevich scandal, Republicans had no excuse for losing.

And we sent a bunch of Republicans to Congress, including Bobby Schilling in the 17th District, only to recall several of them – including Schilling – in the 2012 election.

The state ballot also includes attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer, and comptroller.

Local ballots, in addition to the sheriff’s race, will have about half the county board seats, in addition to county clerk/recorder and treasurer.

But maybe that’s more than you want to think about 10 months before the primary election.

WE’VE REPORTED IN recent days that at least three candidates are already in the race for sheriff in both Bureau and Ogle counties.

Our pages have also reported on would-be Republican candidates for governor visiting Lee and Whiteside counties.

The editor’s in-box has received a steady stream of emails from the National Republican Congressional Committee since Democrat Cheri Bustos unseated Schilling in November. The NRCC disapproves of Rep. Bustos – and Democrats in general.

The GOP, which blamed Schilling’s loss on the Democratic redrawing of 17th District boundaries in 2011, obviously thinks that Bustos is, nonetheless, vulnerable in a mid-term election with a Democrat in the White House.

Hey, it worked for them in 2010.

MAYBE THE MOST interesting 2013 question about the 2014 election involves Republican strategy for winning the governor’s race.

In short, will the party’s primary campaign in the spring produce a candidate who can win in the fall?

2010 nominee Bill Brady, a state senator from Bloomington, appealed to the very conservative core of the party to defeat the more moderate Kirk Dillard, a state senator from Hinsdale, in the primary election. Both are campaigning again.

While many observers thought Quinn couldn’t survive the drag of Blagojevich and the dismal state of the Illinois economy, Brady proved them wrong with a rigid ideology that voters could not accept.

The GOP race this time seems likely to include Chicago venture capitalist Bruce Rauner, who proudly tells folks his wife is a Democrat as proof of his bipartisan tendencies. He has been in our area twice in recent weeks to test support.

Look for the list to get longer. In 2010, Republicans had seven candidates on the ballot seeking the nomination in what was believed to be a certain path to the governor’s mansion.

Of course, nothing is certain in politics.

ALTHOUGH QUINN survived 4 years ago, he is, in death row parlance, a politically dead man walking these days.

We cannot imagine even he is self-deluded enough to think he can win re-election amid a state financial mess that he – along with a feckless Democratic Legislature – has been too timid to clean up.

That would leave Attorney General Lisa Madigan as the likely Democratic nominee.

She would be a strong candidate – providing she and her father, House Speaker Michael Madigan, can figure out how to have him graciously exit the stage so that she might have a political future.

A candidate for governor with a father who is House speaker?

Some things even Illinois voters won’t put up with.

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