Brown: Democrats’ short list of gov candidates is pretty short

SHARE Brown: Democrats’ short list of gov candidates is pretty short

Sen. Dick Durbin meets with the Sun-Times Editorial Board in April. File Photo. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

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Sen. Dick Durbin would rather guys like me not write about the possibility of him running for governor against Bruce Rauner in 2018.

The Illinois Democrat says it’s a “waste of time and breath” to speculate that far ahead when we have another election coming up first in November.

“I have no aspirations for any other office, and I would beg the people who are doing all the speculation to cool it,” Durbin told reporters the other day.

He’s probably right. Rauner is barely a third of the way through his four-year term. Wishing Rauner’s re-election were tomorrow unfortunately doesn’t make it so.

But the Sun-Times is paying me for my time, and I’ve got to breathe anyway, so with apologies to Durbin, perhaps I could at least speculate on who else might be out there to take on Rauner if the senator truly isn’t interested.

Unfortunately for Democrats, the list of strong contenders is short.

Durbin may be the one candidate who could clear a Democratic primary field.


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Without him in the race, all eyes would again turn to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who passed up the governor’s race in 2014.

Madigan is generally well regarded by Illinois voters, but would again have to decide how to handle the conflict created by her father Mike Madigan being speaker of the House.

Most believe she will not run while her father is speaker, and let’s face it, she shouldn’t.

If the speaker were to call it quits and retire, that might open the door for her. But there has been no indication the elder Madigan is ready to bow out in the midst of his battle with Rauner.

Even if Lisa Madigan were to run for governor, she would have to be concerned that the family political brand has taken a lethal hit two years into the Rauner barrage.

After Lisa Madigan, the list is less obvious.

State Treasurer Michael Frerichs was elected in 2014 with Rauner and appears to covet the governor’s job, but may not have the stature at this point.

Frerichs moved into the treasurer’s post from the Illinois Senate, where several of his former colleagues — Daniel Biss, Andy Manar, Kwame Raoul and Heather Steans — also are believed to be positioning themselves for higher office.

All four are among the more cerebral members of the Legislature, but going up against Rauner would be a major step up in weight class for any of them.

Biss backed out of a tough Democratic primary for state comptroller this year against City Clerk Susana Mendoza, while Raoul is also being discussed as a candidate for mayor of Chicago in 2019.

Steans has family financial resources behind her ambitions, while Manar has tried to score points by tackling the toughest issue facing Springfield: how to fix the school funding formula.

Former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is said to want a rematch with Rauner and never shies from the competition, but at some point, he’s going to have to recognize that his electoral career is finished.

Businessman Christopher Kennedy has flirted with runs for political office on several previous occasions, but some believe he is serious about jumping into the race against Rauner.

Kennedy, former chairman of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees and the son of U.S. Sen. Robert and Ethel Kennedy, has formed a progressive think tank, Innovation Illinois, that could serve as a campaign vehicle.

But after backing out on so many prior occasions, Kennedy won’t be able to convince everyone he is serious until the time comes to put his name on the ballot.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart probably belongs on this list, but I doubt he would run. U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly is a rising star, but probably better suited to Washington.

Add it all up and what do you get?

A lot more speculation about Durbin being the candidate.

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