Where are they?
There is no shortage of ambitious politicians angling to become the next governor of Illinois. Ten months before the March 2018 Democratic primary, the list of contestants still grows.
Last week, two more jumped into the already-crowded field: State Rep. Scott Drury of Highland Park, and Chicago activist Tio Hardiman, who challenged Gov. Pat Quinn in the 2014 primary.
The field also includes Evanston State Sen. Daniel Biss; Bob Daiber, a regional school superintendent from Madison County; two wealthy businessmen, Chris Kennedy and J.B. Pritzker; 47th Ward Ald. Ameya Pawar, and Skokie small business owner Alex Paterakis.
They are all eager to thwart Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s reelection plans.
Nine candidates, in all. All men. Where are the women?
In Illinois’ nearly 200 years, the governor’s office has been held exclusively by men.
Sure, women have made political strides in Illinois, occupying nearly every top job, from U.S. senator to attorney general to comptroller. Yet only two — Democrat Dawn Clark Netsch and Republican Judy Baar Topinka — have been nominated for governor by their parties.
And what do we have to show for this rain of men? Since 1973, four Illinois governors have gone to prison. All men.
There has never been a more auspicious time to bring a woman’s touch to Springfield.
Illinois is broken in historic ways, languishing for two years without a budget. When it comes to moral leadership, new ideas or even a modicum of courage, Springfield comes up dry. Meanwhile, the testosterone flows freely, personified in the puerile bickering of Rauner and House Speaker Michael Madigan.
Women politicians make their gentle voices rise above the din. They know how to reason, compromise and listen.
There are plenty of females with the chops for a gubernatorial challenge. Topping the list, alas, is Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. I say, “alas” because her father is Michael Madigan.
Despite, or perhaps because, of his power, Madigan remains one of the most unpopular elected officials in the state. Lisa, one of the most popular. She can’t run as long as he’s in.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle could knock ‘em all dead, but she has chosen, to the good fortune of her constituents, to run for a third term.
There are many others, including national players from the Obama administration, like former Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and White House operative Valerie Jarrett. Experienced legislators such as U.S. Representatives Robin Kelly and Cheri Bustos looked at the race, but demurred.
Perhaps Springfield’s sharky waters have poisoned the rich wells of female leadership. Perhaps they are listening to the nattering pundits who say that to rule Springfield, you must come armed with overpowering clout and a tower of campaign cash. And be a guy.
But women must run, early and often. They should run to win. They should run, like most of the guys in this race, to build statewide name recognition for the future.
Women must run for the state’s highest office to give voice to the issues that matter to them: accessible health care, affordable housing, reproductive choice, workplace equity, education. No offense to the suits, but men never do justice to those issues on the campaign trail.
A woman in 2018. It’s still early, and never too late.