KADNER: Finding Mr. Right in a crowd that looks all wrong

SHARE KADNER: Finding Mr. Right in a crowd that looks all wrong

Democrats running for Illinois governor from left, billionaire J.B. Pritzker, businessman Chris Kennedy, and state Sen. Daniel Biss take their podium positions before a televised forum Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018, in Chicago. (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune via AP, Pool)

This state, such a mess, seems ripe for someone to rise from the ashes and become a political hero.

It isn’t happening.

Not this election. Not the one before it. And not the one before that.


This is not a Republican or Democratic thing. It is bipartisan incompetence, corruption and mendacity. There are no leaders emerging capable of taking on the really massive problems facing Illinois.

Watching the gubernatorial forum on WMAQ-TV on Tuesday, featuring the six-pack of Democratic Party candidates running in the March primary, the only person I saw on that stage capable of inspiring public confidence was moderator Carol Marin.

She did a masterful job of demonstrating just how to manage one of these events, refusing to let the candidates ramble on endlessly about their wives, children and how much they love their mothers.

Unfortunately, no matter how often Marin said, “answer the question, please” the candidates didn’t seem to get the point. Or maybe they were simply incapable of answering any question, which was the conclusion I reached after watching the debate.

Illinois wasted $1 billion the last couple of years making interest payments on bills it failed to pay on time because our government failed to pass a budget.

We also owe billions of dollars to state pension funds.

We have billions of dollars in unpaid bills.

And we have billions of dollars in outstanding loans that suck money away from highway maintenance, schools, mental health care and programs to protect the lives of children.

But that $1 billion I mentioned earlier, that was simply a penalty taxpayers had to pay because the state failed to pay its regular bills on time because Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democrats who control the Legislature failed to pass a budget.

We need leadership in this state. Someone capable of rallying Illinois residents behind a reasonable program to address these issues.

Rauner, a Republican, has proved incapable of doing that. He’s more interested in using his personal fortune to bash Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan in television commercials. Those commercials feature governors from neighboring states bragging about their states and thanking Madigan for helping them.

Rauner can’t brag. He hasn’t done anything.

That would seem to set the stage for Democrats in the upcoming election, especially for candidates with no previous history in public office who can claim their hands aren’t dirty. Well, not quite.

There was J.B. Pritzker on stage unable to explain in any coherent manner why he seemed to be on an FBI tape recording talking to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who appears to be making a convoluted pay-to-play pitch.

After first implying he had no clue that Blago had committed crimes at the time, Pritzker was forced to switch gears when Marin noted that the U.S. attorney had already announced the governor was under investigation.

Well, hundreds of people talked to Blagojevich, Pritzker mumbled. He wasn’t the only one willing to talk deals with the slimeball.

Yeah, that’s the guy I want running this state. He could well be the man most willing to make deals with Madigan, that’s for sure.

Then there was Chris Kennedy. I was inspired by the words of John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert, this Kennedy’s uncle and father. But this guy looked like he had eaten a bad burrito for lunch and needed a place to sleep.

The others on the stage weren’t much better. There was no energy on display. No one seemed inspired by the opportunity to lead Illinois.

It looked like the Democrats just wanted to get away as quickly as possible. Hey, maybe they’re smarter than I thought.

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com.

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