What do you do when you're the Democratic candidate for Governor of Illinois on the same ticket with a candidate that is completely unacceptable?
A generation ago, Adlai Stevenson III had just won the Democratic primary for governor. He had narrowly lost, in the opinion of some of us, in a stolen election 4 years earlier. Staffers for the opposing campaign were convicted of vote fraud. There was also evidence of vote counting machines skipping over punch card votes. This was 18 years before the Bush campaign organized mobs to intimidate registrars in Florida. This time, 1986, he was favored to win the general election.
But two Nazi-like extremists had managed to capture the Democratic nomination for Secretary of State and Lieutenant Governor. During the primary campaign, mainstream media had kept reporting that the traditional candidates for these positions were not opposed. Fact checking was about as prominent then as it is in what passes for journalism today. An underground movement of fanatics got the two nominated in a race most voters ignored as uncontested.
Stevenson refused to run on the same ticket as the two thugs. He formed a temporary party he called the Solidarity Party. Instead of winning, he got only 40% of the vote. He lost by doing the right thing.
This year, the successor to Governor Rod Blagojevich, who doubled as a comic-crook, Pat Quinn, faced a similar situation. A pawnbroker spent a load of money, money being the Supreme Court endorsed proxy for free speech, and got the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor. It developed that a few years back, the fellow had been accused of holding a knife to a former live-in girlfriend's neck. The was just after a soon-to-be ex-wife accused him of violence and got a temporary order of protection.
Pat Quinn's solution may work out a lot better than the very honorable Adlai Stevenson. Rather than running as an independent, he was lucky enough to help convince the pawnbroker, accused batterer, to drop out. His official position was one of judicious neutrality. "I think he should come forward and tell us everything about his background. But anything dealing with that has to go through the [Democratic] state central committee. I want to see what Mr. Cohen has to say. I don't give opinions until I hear all the facts from the person involved." But he had to be hoping the fellow would jump off a very tall building into a glass of water.
Republicans are expected to use the scandal anyway. It's what they do. The pawnbroker's opponent is less than helpful. "We tried to warn the governor beforehand and they didn't want to listen to it."
It could be worse. It was a pawnbroker with an anger problem against women. It could have been Blagojevich.
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