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Focus of 2014 campaign shifts to Republicans

Published: Monday, Sept. 23, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT
Caption
(M. Spencer Green)
Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate state Sen. Bill Brady introduces his lieutenant governor running mate, Maria Rodriguez, at a news conference Sept. 17 in Chicago. Rodriguez is a small business owner and served 8 years as mayor of Long Grove before joining the Brady campaign ticket.

SPRINGFIELD (AP) – The drama in the 2014 campaign for Illinois’ statewide offices shifted substantially after the withdrawal of former White House chief of staff Bill Daley from the Democratic primary for governor.

The focus on the state’s top job now switches to the Republican side, where a four-way primary again threatens to split the GOP’s main voting blocs. The only other looming battle at this point is in the treasurer’s race, with two GOP candidates vying.

Republicans still are hunting for candidates to run for attorney general and secretary of state. The Democratic slate looks increasingly set with very little expected competition, though one question is whether a dark-horse candidate could emerge this late in the game to challenge Quinn – or another incumbent – after all.

The field will not be finalized until a December 2 deadline for candidates to file petitions with the state. Here’s a scorecard of where the races stand:

Governor/ Democrats

Daley’s surprise exodus irked some fellow Democrats. They fear he waited too long to allow for another strong challenger to Quinn, who faces low public approval ratings and no end of challenges.

Stopping in Chicago last week for a charity event, Hillary Rodham Clinton quipped that Quinn has “just been entered into the Guinness Book of World Records for the luckiest politician on the face of the earth.”

The only other announced primary candidate is Tio Hardiman, former director of a Chicago anti-violence group, who is little known outside the city and has a minimally funded campaign. Two pols who previously ruled out a run, Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan and state Sen. Kwame Raoul, say they are not reconsidering.

The party’s central committee was expected to formally endorse Quinn at a slating session Sunday in Springfield, despite the governor’s recent clashes with fellow Democrats in the Legislature. They “want to show party unity, because there isn’t any party unity,” said Democratic Rep. Jack Franks of Marengo.

Could a newcomer jump in?

“They’d have to do an awful lot of fundraising,” said Don Rose, a political analyst. “The (state) central committee is about to endorse Quinn. He’s got Cook County already.”

Governor/ Republicans

Three longtime lawmakers and one billionaire “outsider” comprise the GOP field. That’s down from seven candidates 4 years ago, when state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington got the nomination and lost narrowly to Quinn.

Brady and fellow Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale are making their second bids. State Treasurer Dan Rutherford of Chenoa and Winnetka venture capitalist Bruce Rauner also jumped in.

Despite vigorous campaigning, Rose doesn’t consider the Republican field “has taken any significant shape yet.” He said the race is anybody’s game.

Brady and Rutherford boast of connections throughout the state, but the close proximity of their home bases threatens to fracture the central Illinois vote, similar to how multiple candidates split the valuable DuPage County vote in 2010.

Treasurer

The contest for the job of investing Illinois’ money is wide open after Rutherford declared his pursuit of the governor’s office.

On the Republican side, the outgoing House minority leader, Tom Cross, says his background as a suburban Chicago prosecutor and with state budgeting will be assets. DuPage County Auditor Bob Grogan says his experience as an accountant makes him even more qualified. A third GOP contender, Michael Baker, is a political economist and navy veteran from Chicago.

On the Democratic side, state Sen. Mike Frerichs of Champaign is so far unopposed. He says his candidacy brings geographical diversity to the party slate since all but one of the other Democrats are from Chicago.

Comptroller

The race for the job of paying Illinois’ bills could ultimately be an interesting contest between two well-known names in Illinois. But neither Republican incumbent Judy Baar Topinka nor Democratic Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon are being challenged in their respective primaries for the job at this point.

Simon, of Carbondale, vowed she would be “the most aggressive fiscal watchdog this state has ever seen.” Topinka is a former three-term state treasurer, former head of the state Republican party, and the party nominee who lost the 2006 governor’s race to Rod Blagojevich.

Attorney general

To date, no big-name Republican has stepped up to announce a run against Madigan, a 10-year incumbent with one of the biggest war chests in Illinois.

One Republican registered to fund raise is Paul Schimpf, a retired Marine Corps veteran and attorney from Waterloo who says he is “increasingly frustrated by the failure of our political class to address the problems facing our state.”

Jack Dorgan, the newly elected chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, says the party is still actively recruiting and has two other candidates considering a bid for attorney general.

Secretary of state

Equally scarce is either a Democrat or Republican who wants to run against Secretary of State Jesse White, a Democrat who launched a bid for a fifth term, despite once saying that his fourth term would be his last. White won by large margins in both 2006 and 2010, and has nearly $500,000 in his campaign fund.

Dorgan said the party is currently having internal conversations about possible contenders. The GOP strategy, he said, will be highlighting how the office needs to improve.

“When’s the last time you had a pleasurable experience at the secretary of state’s office?” Dorgan quipped.

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Associated Press writers Sophia Tareen and Sara Burnett contributed from Chicago.

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