Republicans in Illinois feel terrible that a Holocaust denier got on the party’s ballot, unopposed, in the March primary.

Golly, they say, if only they’d known Arthur Jones was going to file his petitions to run for Congress in the 3rd District on the very last day of filing. They would have scrounged up a decent candidate to run against him.

EDITORIAL

But if that’s the case, why did the party also miss the deadline six weeks later, Jan. 18, to register a write-in contender to take on Jones? Against the likes of Jones, a write-in candidate could have won.

Truth is, state Republican Party leaders just blew it. They did nothing to block Jones — and expressed no particular public disgust — until two Sun-Times reporters, Lynn Sweet and Frank Main, broke the news that Jones is getting a free ride.

Why didn’t they sound the alarm all along?  (EDITOR’S NOTE: On Friday, after this editorial was published, the Illinois Republican Party told the Sun-Times that a comment from Illinois GOP Chairman Tim Schneider opposing Jones’ 3rd Congressional District bid and condemning his views was included in a Dec. 12 story that ran in the Riverside-Brookfield Landmark.)

There is little chance Jones will go to Congress. He’s running in an overwhelmingly Democratic district and likely will lose to the Democratic nominee — either incumbent Rep. Dan Lipinski or challenger Marie Newman — in the November general election.

But if stupid is what stupid does, we see three lessons:

  • The state GOP has to own up this failure and do a better job. When your party gives you nobody but an anti-Semitic Holocaust denier to vote for, you are being treated shabbily.
  • Gerrymandering adds to the problem. As Gov. Bruce Rauner said in a meeting with the Sun-Times Editorial Board this week, it’s tough to find credible candidates to run for office in districts that have been drawn to favor the other party’s candidates. People with real jobs and responsibilities don’t have the time to run for elections they cannot win.
  • The polarized politics of our times are inspiring even more people to run for office. Election officials confirm the numbers are up. That is excellent, of course, and our editorial board has met more than a few sharp-eyed political newbies in recent weeks as we interview candidates for possible endorsements. But not everybody, to express the matter kindly, is ready for prime time.

We interviewed one candidate for Congress who assured us he would win, though he’s never held office before, and would be elected Speaker of the House next year. We interviewed another candidate who, when we asked, essentially said he’s running because it’s on his bucket list.

You get the idea.

We’re doing our due diligence — a great deal of interviewing and vetting — and conscientious voters are doing the same.

If only the Illinois Republican Party had done as much when Jones slithered into view.


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