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Interesting times if Clayborne makes the jump

Monday, Aug 3, 2009

* My syndicated newspaper column this week is about a possible gubernatorial candidacy by Senate Majority Leader James Clayborne

While fellow Democrats Gov. Pat Quinn and Comptroller Dan Hynes were hurling insults at each other several days ago about the state budget, I picked up the phone and called Illinois Senate Majority Leader James Clayborne.

Were the rumors true? I said. Was he really thinking about running for governor in the Democratic primary?

Over the previous several days, quite a few people had said they’d spoken with Clayborne, of Belleville, and all claimed that he sounded like a candidate to them.

But Clayborne would only say that he was still just talking to people, mulling it over and considering his options. No decision yet.

Clayborne has floated his name for statewide office on more than one occasion. Four years ago, for instance, he indicated that he might run for lieutenant governor. We’ll see if he pulls the trigger this time. But it’s an interesting proposition.

On paper, Clayborne would be a fascinating candidate, especially if he is the only African-American in the contest.

Sen. Clayborne is not the sort of Democrat that Chicago media types are accustomed to seeing. He’s a downstate attorney with a pretty solid pro-business voting record who is also regularly endorsed by organized labor.

He’s pro-gun, but he’s also pro-choice. He ran and lost for senate president last year, and the campaign exposed some rifts with his fellow black senators, partly over his strong rating from the National Rifle Association.

Gun owner rights are not usually very popular with Democratic primary voters, and particularly with Chicago blacks. Pro-gun southern white Glenn Poshard was able to win the Democratic nomination in 1998, although that issue was used against him in the fall by Republican George Ryan. Just about every likely Republican nominee strongly favors the National Rifle Association’s view of things, so that issue might not hurt Clayborne as much as it did Poshard if he manages to win the primary.

Clayborne’s record on guns will set up an interesting choice for Chicago-area black voters and this black candidate. He’s known to be a solid friend of utility companies, which will also test his popularity with black voters.

African-American talk radio hosts did, however, warm to Clayborne during his race for the Senate presidency last year.

During last year’s presidential primary, exit polling showed blacks were about a quarter of the primary vote - and 93 percent voted for Barack Obama. If Clayborne runs against two white, Chicago-based candidates who split that vote, his gun stance and geography might help him pick up some downstate white voters -although his skin color may give some of those folks an interesting choice as well.

Clayborne’s fundraising during the senate president’s race wasn’t bad. He raised about $580,000, compared to the ultimate victor John Cullerton’s million dollars or so. Clayborne raised $113,000 during the first six months of this year, but had over $650,000 in the bank.

Clayborne will have some trouble explaining why he tried to move a bill this year which would have called for a referendum to consolidate a school his son attends with another school. Clayborne introduced the legislation after his son was reportedly expelled for what appeared to be a minor infraction (allegedly waving around part of a broken pair of scissors).

Questions about whether he used his office for personal revenge with that bill would go directly to his gubernatorial temperament. After all, we don’t need another governor who will put revenge at the top of his “to do” list. Clayborne has denied any revenge motive, saying that if he really wanted payback he would’ve pushed through the consolidation without a referendum.

Unlike Hynes, Clayborne supported a tax increase to balance the state budget. The legislation Clayborne backed included an expansion of the state sales tax to an array of services, plus an income tax hike. Quinn initially supported that bill, then said he was for a different tax hike plan.

Hynes repeatedly has slammed Quinn for proposing a tax hike during an economic meltdown, and that’s part of what the two men were whacking each other for when I called Clayborne. Hynes can differentiate himself against both Quinn and Clayborne on this issue, but supporting big cuts to government programs and services hasn’t exactly been a popular issue in statewide Democratic primaries.

This could be a lot of fun.

* Meanwhile, Paul Merrion of Crain’s looks at Democratic gubernatorial prospects of the two frontrunners…

Despite a prime opportunity to turn the Blagojevich years and the state’s fiscal crisis into the issue of failed Democratic leadership, Republicans are facing in Gov. Pat Quinn a rival who raised more money in the last few months than all of them combined.

“As the incumbent who’s not Blagojevich, he can run as the anti-Blago, too,” Mr. Keiser says. “He will be tough to beat.”

Or if Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes is the nominee, the GOP message will bounce off his fiscal-watchdog credentials.

* And Greg Hinz takes a quick look at the top Democratic US Senate hopefuls, Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and Chicago Urban League President Cheryle Jackson, and declares them to be “frankly, kind of weak”

Both are bright, young and articulate. But, at age 33, Mr. Giannoulias may be too young, whatever the comparison to Mr. Obama. And, while he remains tight with the prez, he’s picked up some baggage from the family bank and his running of the state’s college-loan program. Ms. Jackson, in turn, never has run for statewide office, and Republicans (and Mr. Giannoulias) will keep reminding voters that she once served as press secretary to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. But she reportedly is getting help from ex-Democratic National Committee Chairman David Wilhelm.

That doesn’t necessarily mean either can’t win. After all, Illinois is a deep blue state. It does mean that, at least as of now, it looks like Illinois has a real contest for the U.S. Senate.

* Rep. Art Turner is running for lieutenant governor. From a press release…

House Deputy Majority Leader Arthur Turner (D-Chicago) announced Sunday that he will seek the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor and pledged that he would run an issues-based campaign centered on how to put the state on more solid economic, ethical, and budgetary footing, and ensure that it is able to meet its obligations to Illinois’ citizens.

“I intend to campaign vigorously in the coming months, listening and learning directly from people across our state about what is important to them and how state government can be more responsive to their needs,” Turner said. “We’ve learned firsthand, and seen in other states recently, how much the office of Lt. Governor matters. I believe I have the right combination of legislative, professional and life experiences to do the job effectively and serve as an advocate for the people of Illinois and an ambassador for our great state.”

The issues that Turner would most like to make the centerpiece of the office are the promotion of volunteerism, spurring job creation opportunities and industry growth and sustainability.

* Rep. Dan Burke to get Latino challenger

Rudy Lozano Jr. vs. Daniel J. Burke. The 2010 matchup for the 23rd Legislative District on Chicago’s Southwest Side is shaping up as a struggle between two storied political families.

Or peg it as the post-Obama generation taking on what’s left of the Richard J. Daley Machine.

On Tuesday, Lozano will launch a petition drive to challenge longtime legislator Burke. The challenger is the son and namesake of a slain progressive hero, Rudy Lozano Sr. The incumbent, Dan Burke, is the clout-heavy brother of one of Chicago’s most controversial and sartorial pols, 14th Ward Ald. Edward M. Burke, chairman of the City Council Finance Committee.

On the surface, Lozano’s challenge looks hopelessly naive at best. While Lozano boasts name recognition among Latino voters and a compelling story line, his opponent, a state rep since 1991, is part and parcel of a political Machine rich with influence and decades of electoral know-how.

Thoughts on all this?

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Southside Johnny - Monday, Aug 3, 09 @ 8:38 am:

    Dan Burke’s a great guy, but it’s time for the Burkes to see reality. The district is more and more Latino and it’s time that the Latino’s elect one of their own. Time for Dan to retire and cash in the campaign fund.

  2. - wordslinger - Monday, Aug 3, 09 @ 8:43 am:

    I think there will be one more Dem in the primary. Somebody should be willing to take a shot against the current field.

  3. - Carl Nyberg - Monday, Aug 3, 09 @ 8:45 am:

    If Art Turner wants to run for higher office, why didn’t he run for IL-07?

    Oh, yeah. I remember now. He expects Danny Davis to pull on Gutierrez on his retirement.

  4. - Red Bird fan - Monday, Aug 3, 09 @ 8:52 am:

    Claybourne is a piece of work! He tried to pass a bill to change the language as to what is a weapon at a school. Why - because his 5th grader, disassembled a scissors, threatened other children and was suspended. Then Claybourne filed a lawsuit against the school and tried to change the law to make the school district look stupid. Really nice, at a time when schools are worried about funding, this district paid thousands to defend what should have been an expultion. Also, the legislature is burdened with this stupidity.

  5. - Deep South - Monday, Aug 3, 09 @ 9:10 am:

    Rich, I think one can be pro-gun rights while at the same time reject the NRA. The two don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand. There are many “downstate’ Dems who feel that way. However, it does seem that the NRA and the GOP DO go hand-in-hand.

  6. - Ghost - Monday, Aug 3, 09 @ 9:12 am:

    A Hynes/Clayborne ticket would be pretty strong, if Claybourne is interested in Lt. Gov.

    Giannoulias and Jackson run the very real danger of pushing each other out of the office, depending on how bloody their primary run goes.

  7. - Meterman - Monday, Aug 3, 09 @ 9:12 am:

    Excuse me miss Jackson, but you are the weakest link and will be sent home as a non-starter.

  8. - Ghost - Monday, Aug 3, 09 @ 9:17 am:

    ==== Excuse me miss Jackson, but you are the weakest link and will be sent home as a non-starter. ====


  9. - Downstater - Monday, Aug 3, 09 @ 9:20 am:

    I know James Clayborne and he is no conservative democrat. He is a liberal through and through.

  10. - The Doc - Monday, Aug 3, 09 @ 9:22 am:

    The weapons stance of Clayborne as it relates to a possible gubernatorial campaign is fascinating.

    I’m what many would peg (erroneously, IMO) as a lakefront liberal, but think Chicago’s gun laws are overly restrictive.

    If Clyborne can convince Chicagoans, particularly African-Americans, that a combination of regulation, background checks, training, and registration may reduce gun violence (while perhaps adding a few bucks into state coffers), he’s got a fighter’s chance, and perhaps better.

    Of course, he’ll certainly not get any support from the Daley administration/Machine, but that seems unlikely regardless of his position on arms.

  11. - Bill - Monday, Aug 3, 09 @ 9:31 am:

    Somehow I get the feeling that Emma and Slim and Rudy Jr. just aren’t going to play that well in the 14th ward or the rest of the 23rd. My money is on Burke by a landslide.

  12. - VanillaMan - Monday, Aug 3, 09 @ 9:39 am:

    Just as Illinois obviously shows up as a liberal Democrat state, it is the Chicago and Cook County voting block which determines who gets the nomination. Illinois government is loaded with Chicago Democrats as a result.

    There is no political or geographical diversity. The entire state is operated out of a tiny section of the entire state. It is a closed system. The infighting is a problem because the politics is so local. They pass their elected offices to their kids. You’d think Illinois government was ran by a bunch of Appalachian cousins!

    You don’t get good government this way. Hello? Anyone take a good look at the craptastic political situation that has been destroying our state over the past decade? You like it?

    The goldfish bowl that is the Illinois Democratic Party needed a good cleaning twenty years ago. You can’t get leadership from a floating cesspool filled with dead gold carp, greener than the Chicago River on St. Patrick’s day.

    So who will the Chicago Democrats serve up next year? Whoever it is has to appeal to their voter base - Chicago and Cook County. This is a voting block that is split when there are more than one attractive African American Chicagoland candidate. But it will choose an African American Chicagoland politician when it can. That’s utterly normal for any voter bloc.

    So the more the non African-American candidates there are, the more opportunities that are available for a Chicagoland African American.

    Look who we are replacing in the US Senate - Barack Obama and Roland Burris. Why wouldn’t you want to replace them with another African American Chicagoland candidate?

    So with Hynes and Quinn running, the candidate who will win will be the sole African American candidate from Chicagoland. If Clayborne runs, he will clinch it if he has no competition from Chicago African American Democrats. Don’t even bother with the polling until a week before the Primary, because polls don’t show African American support until then - (right, Miller?). We have a history of African American candidates winning and exceeding polls every election year.

    So far, the Illinois Democrats have chosen their Chicagoans wisely based on family connections and fealty to the local network. But eventually, their lack of political and geographical diversity will damage them. Eventually, they will fracture so that nominees will increasingly reflect the largest of the Party’s voting bloc.

    So while Illinois is a liberal Democrat state, the Party in Power will be run by an ever increasingly smaller part of Illinois. There will come a point when it becomes too small to be electable.

    This happens to every party. It remains to be seen if 2010 is the year the GOP is elected, but the time will arrive.

  13. - Niles Township - Monday, Aug 3, 09 @ 9:45 am:

    Claybourne does want the Lite Guv nomination this time, and he is using his trial baloon as a means of getting either Quinn or Hynes to back him as their “official” partner.

  14. - Ghost - Monday, Aug 3, 09 @ 10:31 am:

    === the Party in Power will be run by an ever increasingly smaller part of Illinois. ====

    The Dem majorities have been increasing in IL, which woudl refute this premise.

    You need a majority of people to vote for you to win an election, and as the GOP pushes its agenda, more people vote dem. The GOP has helped increase the number of dem voters in the State.

    The recent elections in chicago have shown voters to be indepenent minded on the local level.

    VM you use a lot of anti-chicago rhetoric withany any real examples or factual discussion. being the child of a politician is a giant red herring that smacks of good old fear mongering used to avoid the lack of factual support for an argument.

    Every elected politician had to obtain a majority of voters to win. The handful of appointees end up having to face the electorate.

    Not sure what you have against minorities, but I see nothing wrong in pushing for diversity in a body that directs the course of laws for our country.

  15. - VanillaMan - Monday, Aug 3, 09 @ 11:35 am:

    === the Party in Power will be run by an ever increasingly smaller part of Illinois. ====

    Your partisan blindness hinders your ability to read. The verb in that sentence is run, and the evidence confirms it’s accuracy.

  16. - VanillaMan - Monday, Aug 3, 09 @ 11:41 am:

    Not sure what you have against minorities, but I see nothing wrong in pushing for diversity in a body that directs the course of laws for our country.

    The reason you are not sure is because you don’t know what you are talking about. If you continue to claim that I am opposed to minorities, I will continue to understand that you cannot debate an issue on it’s merits, and have to dig up race cards to prove lame points.

  17. - Bill - Monday, Aug 3, 09 @ 11:47 am:

    We’re a little testy today, aren’t we?

  18. - Loyal Alumn-Uof I 65 - Monday, Aug 3, 09 @ 11:52 am:

    I think that Art Turner’s long service to the district and his sterling reputation with education and health groups, social service agencies and the River North and West communities that he has run in will translate to strong state wide support.Art has party support and fresh ideas for energizing the office of Lt. Governor. An outstanding candidate for this office.

  19. - VanillaMan - Monday, Aug 3, 09 @ 12:40 pm:

    “Not sure what you have against minorities…”?

    The statement is too cute by half, and 100% phoney. “I see nothing wrong with diversity…”, as if anyone would see anything wrong with diversity.

    If another blogger ever started a paragraph directed towards you starting with a statement like that, I would expect you to react similarly, and I would back you up.

  20. - One of the 35 - Monday, Aug 3, 09 @ 2:08 pm:

    Claybourne is also quite tight with Excelon and ComEd. Don’t know how much they have provided to his campaign fund but his voting record is pretty clear in this regard.

  21. - Will - Monday, Aug 3, 09 @ 3:40 pm:

    Art Turner’s campaign disclosure forms are a scandal waiting to happen. Tens of thousands to himself for “petty cash” and miscellaneous election day expenses. Payments for “services rendered” to an unusual number of people with the last name of Turner. A candidate who uses his campaign fund to line his own pockets isn’t what Democrats need so soon after Blagojevich. Turner on the ticket would be a complete disaster.

  22. - FDR - Monday, Aug 3, 09 @ 4:05 pm:

    Agree with Hinz’ assessment of the “week” Dem Senate field. Deep down the Obama crowd knows Barack’s “friend” Alexi is not the best guy to defend the seat.

    The national Dems couldn’t talk Lisa or Kennedy into the race — have they given up on finding a blue chip candidate? Might they take another run at Hynes to get him out of the guv race?

  23. - southside irish - Monday, Aug 3, 09 @ 4:10 pm:

    Lozano has the ground support to take the election and is speaking to the change that is so powerful right now. People are ready for it, but voter turnout will be the key to this election.

  24. - Quinn's not in tight... - Monday, Aug 3, 09 @ 4:12 pm:

    >>Claybourne is also quite tight with Excelon and ComEd.

  25. - Not VanillaMan - Monday, Aug 3, 09 @ 4:29 pm:

    VanillaMan, the last two Democratic nominees for Governor lost Cook county in the primary election. Downstate can easily pick the winner in a three or four way primary.

  26. - Rich Miller - Monday, Aug 3, 09 @ 4:38 pm:

    ====We have a history of African American candidates winning and exceeding polls every election year.===

    Roland Burris, 2002. Not so much.

  27. - Joseph - Monday, Aug 3, 09 @ 5:03 pm:

    don’t worry Dan Burke should win-he will find a latino or two to run in the primary.

  28. - Bill - Monday, Aug 3, 09 @ 5:10 pm:

    …and he’ll make Rudy spend all his money answering challenges to his petitions. Rudy’s “ground game” is loud but not too strong when it comes to the actual work necessary to win.

  29. - Leave a Light on George - Monday, Aug 3, 09 @ 6:28 pm:

    Good news about Claybourne. We can replace Chicago ward politics in the state capitol with St. Clair County politics. Both have a great reputation for honesty!

  30. - MsKsArmy - Monday, Aug 3, 09 @ 7:54 pm:

    What a coupe for Jay Hoffman if Jim Clayborne gets a nod for anything statewide in the primary. Remember Jay? The leader of the downstate Blagojevich coalition (who probably believes his vote to impeach now relieves him of any and all responsibility for his collusion).

    LALG suggests that St. Clair County politics has never been to the State Capitol. Not true! It has been there since Mr. Hoffman sat at the table with Rod as his roomate, as his floor leader and as his main power broker downstate.

    You forget Mr. Hoffman sits on nearly $2 million raised from labor, contractors and the construction industry all interested in former Governor Blago’s big capital bill, spearheaded at the time by Hoffman and his contractor pals. That money will be tough to be used directly on behalf of any candidate because it could be suspect (or at least draw unnecessary attention). But $2 million for Get Out the Vote funneled into other accounts for Get Out the Vote could make someone a real player again.

    Clayborne brings a unique resume downstate, yes; but he also will carry some heavy baggage as well if he gets past a primary. Follow the money. We will.

  31. - Chris - Wednesday, Aug 5, 09 @ 3:25 am:

    Rudy will stand a chance.

  32. - Human - Wednesday, Aug 5, 09 @ 11:39 am:

    “Somehow I get the feeling that Emma and Slim”–This is how the other side plays. The opponent is Rudy Lozano Jr. If you think that Slim Coleman is going to be on the ballot, you are mistaken. Do you want to do what your allies did to Paloma and shoot through Rudy Jr.’s house? You guys are thugs with suits and good diction.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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