You can’t tell the players without a scorecard, as they remind you at the ballpark, and the scorecard in the upcoming March primary elections in Illinois looks a little like this:
•J.B. Pritzker, the favorite gubernatorial candidate of state Democratic Party bosses, is apologizing to African-American voters for disparaging comments he made about black officeholders when he was being chummy with our disgraced and jailed former governor, Rod Blagojevich.
•A little-known (until now) state senator from Wheaton, Jeanne Ives, aims to knock off Gov. Bruce Rauner in the GOP primary by airing a narrow-minded set of broadcast ads ridiculing transgenders, illegal immigrants, women who get abortions and Chicago teachers.
•A Republican congressional candidate running unopposed in a heavily Democratic district on the Southwest Side of Chicago turns out to be a closet Nazi who denies the Holocaust ever existed. Anyone remember the supporters of right-wing loonie Lyndon LaRouche crashing the Illinois Democratic ballot in 1986? Their actions essentially ended the gubernatorial campaign and political career of the honorable Adlai Stevenson III, who left the ballot and ran a doomed write-in campaign rather than run on the same ticket.
I’ve checked, but so far, no Lake County Republicans have followed Ives’ take-no-prisoners gubernatorial campaign or that of Arthur Jones, the whack-a-doodle GOP House candidate in the 3rd Congressional District. Although there is time to join their bandwagon, as early voting is underway in Lake County.
Welcome to the silly season in the Land of Lincoln, as political operatives across the state are scrambling to figure out which side they want to be on when voters take to the polls March 20. Those undecided on what to do the third Tuesday next month or sooner need to sort through the fog of spin and toxic TV ads. It’s also a good time to subscribe to a newspaper.
Things were running so smoothly for billionaire Pritzker in his party’s primary field that some wondered why even hold an election. He was endorsed quickly and often by state and Cook County Democratic leaders.
Then came the snippets of wiretaps airing on television thanks to Rauner’s campaign. In the audio, we discovered Pritzker playing coy with Blagojevich over being named to the vacant Senate seat of President Barack Obama or perhaps being tapped for state treasurer or attorney general.
Yet to come was a second series of government recordings showing Pritzker making derogatory remarks about some well-liked black Democrats. Especially former Illinois Senate President Emil Jones, whom Pritzker labeled as “crass.”
I knew Jones during his days in the Illinois House and Senate, before he became leader in the upper chamber in Springfield, and I didn’t see him as crass, or crude for that matter. He was rough-and-tumble, which one expects from rising in the Chicago Machine while working in the city’s sewer department.
Lake County Democrats seem to be split between Pritzker, state Sen. Daniel Biss of Evanston (“the middle-class candidate,” his ads proclaim) and millionaire businessman Christopher Kennedy, son of Robert Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1968 while running for president. Polls show a good quarter of Democratic voters statewide haven’t made up their minds who’ll they’ll support come Election Day.
Meanwhile on the Republican ticket, party regulars are distancing themselves from conservative-bent candidate Ives who seems to believe airing those outlandish ads make friends. Instead, they ignited outrage.
Outrage also has accompanied the congressional candidacy of Arthur Jones, 70, the neo-Nazi who has been a perennial candidate not only in Illinois, but also Wisconsin.
Both parties have had their share of odd candidates, from LaRouchies in the ’80s to National Socialist follower Jones in the new millennium. Voters once knew enough to reject them and their ideals soundly. Let’s hope we haven’t forgotten.
Charles Selle is a former News-Sun reporter, political editor and editor.