It’s hard to look away from the massive train wreck that is our presidential race. After the last few days’ revelations and the second debate, some in the media would have you believe it’s over, implying that there’s no point in voting.

Ridiculous. Don’t get caught in that nonsensical trap. Consider this:

  1. If you don’t vote because you believe one party or another has it sewn up, then you’re throwing away your opportunity, your obligation at one of the most critical junctures in modern times.
  2. If many of us do that, then it’s even possible the exact opposite could occur. If enough people stay home, they could enable the other side to win.
  3. You might have forgotten as you stare, slack-mouthed at the wreckage of the presidential race, but there are some other key questions and battles on the Illinois ballot that demand your attention, your homework, your decision and your vote. They are a U.S. Senate race, a comptroller race, a constitutional amendment proposal and, for some voters, key legislative battles.

Let’s delve deeper into those.


Illinois still has a U.S. Senate race that is considered one of the keys to determining which party gains control of the upper chamber. Republican Mark Kirk is running to retain the seat once held by Barack Obama against Democratic Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth.

Both are disabled military veterans who have run disappointing campaigns.

Kirk, who suffered a severe stroke, keeps trying to smear Duckworth with the Rod Blagojevich brush and suggest her handling of some employees in a downstate veterans’ home cost some veterans their lives. It’s a stretch at best and has little to do with how she might represent us in the Senate. Duckworth, who lost both legs when her helicopter was shot down over Iraq, initially kept trying to tie Kirk to Trump even after he disavowed him, but lately has taken to emphasizing his past misrepresentations about his military record and other controversial statements.

At a recent Chicago Tribune endorsement session, the candidates finally began talking about the future and their very different approaches to things that matter to more of us like student loans, crime, Syria, jobs and the economy. What are their views on taxes? On fixing our healthcare system? On how else we can create jobs? Perhaps we’ll get some answers at another debate in central Illinois Oct. 24.

We’ll also decide over the next month whether Republican Leslie Munger, appointed by Gov. Bruce Rauner, or Democrat Susana Mendoza, who considers House Speaker Michael Madigan one of her mentors, becomes the keeper of the Illinois checkbook.

Whoever wins can make propping up a budget-less state easier or more difficult for Gov. Bruce Rauner. She also can literally make or break some social service agencies that provide care for the developmentally disabled, mentally ill, elderly, young and more who still are surviving from state check to state check. The comptroller traditionally has been someone who speaks up without regard to party about the state’s finances and balance sheet. Politically, the statewide office also can be a stepping stone to higher office.

All the candidates for these two statewide offices answered a series of essay questions for Reboot Illinois and the Better Government Association that we’ll be publishing on our websites this week. Reboot Illinois also soon will publish candidate scorecards that allow you to quickly compare candidates’ positions side by side.

Our ballots also will ask us whether we want it embedded in our state constitution that gas taxes, plane fees, transit taxes and the like only go to pay for transportation-related repairs. Several special interest groups like the state’s road-building industry are pushing a “yes” vote that would mean, like pensions, these funds would be untouchable for other purposes like finding a better way to fund schools or boost law enforcement or help fund care for the disabled. So far, there seems to be no organized opposition.

Industry groups and others promoting a “yes” vote suggest locking away these fees means our roads and bridges can be fixed without tax increases. But if we have to pay pensions first, along with interest on loans, and we can’t touch the road fund, isn’t that just going to mean less money left over for everything else, providing cover for lawmakers to raise taxes?

Then there are the legislative races. Out of 177 Illinois House and Senate seats in Springfield, there are a few dozen considered competitive, meaning they weren’t already gerrymandered by the Democratic mapmakers who won the power to draw the current maps. A race or two touch the city, several of the competitive contests are in the suburbs, while others are scattered around central and southern Illinois. Rauner and Madigan and the rest of the legislative leaders are pouring literally millions upon millions into these races even though most experts conclude not enough of them will change hands to cause Madigan and Democrats to lose power.

More than $25 million already has been raised in the political gambit between Rauner and Madigan. Are you a Madigan Democrat? Someone who is grateful he is the backstop to the governor, stopping his anti-union agenda and thwarting a vote on remap reform?

Are you a Rauner Republican, grateful Illinois finally has someone with the resources to dilute union power and push for remap reform and term limits? Or are you an independent or part of a silent middle who might not always pay enough attention? It’s time to start now. There’s more than the presidential train wreck riding on this one. Your taxes, your ride to work and school, your access to services and your voice in Washington are at stake.

Madeleine Doubek is publisher of Reboot Illinois.

Follow Madeleine Doubek on Twitter: Follow @MDoubekRebootIL