* 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?