* Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown points out today that he wrote all about lt. governor Democratic nominee Scott Lee Cohen’s troubles last March…
So I duly reported the information, along with his explanation that the charges were dropped when the girlfriend failed to appear in court and with his denial that he’d done anything wrong in the first place. The whole business was tucked into a couple of paragraphs deep within the story, which I thought portrayed Cohen overall as a bit of a goof.
And that’s where it stopped, until a few weeks ago, when I started receiving calls from Democratic political types as his opponents came to realize Cohen might actually win, which I’d already figured out for myself just by hearing all his radio commercials and seeing his campaign mailings.
Some hoped I would remind voters about Cohen’s arrest, but I thought that if his opponents or the candidates for governor believed it was important, they should make it an issue themselves.
Instead, I wrote a column about the very real possibility Cohen could win and pointing out how he was going out of his way to hide his occupation in those campaign ads touting him generically as a successful small-business man.
I hoped that would be enough to bring voters to their senses, which was my second mistake.
Now that the Democrats are stuck with him, they might want to make the most of it.
I also knew about the allegations against Cohen because of Brown’s column. His consultant admitted it all last year when I asked. Like Brown, I didn’t think Cohen had much of a shot at winning. Also, like Brown, I thought that the candidates would use it since Brown had already written about it, and I just wasn’t comfortable writing more until then. I was wrong. Man, was I wrong. I’m sorry about that. I feel horrible.
* Cohen and his strategist talked to the Daily Herald…
Cohen said he spent about $2 million, compared to the $300,000 Link spent.
“Some career politicians are bitter,” Cohen said. “What won the election was not the money. It was being with the people, listening to their needs, helping their communities.”
Cohen got into politics after starting Rod Must Resign, aimed at forcing former Gov. Blagojevich from office. In the closing days of the campaign, Cohen ran numerous radio and television commercials promoting his job fairs.
His campaign strategist, Phil Molfese, said surveys and focus groups showed Cohen’s main message of job creation and economic development resonated strongest with suburban residents. Support from Cook, DuPage and other collar counties ended up making the difference in his election.
* As we’ve already discussed, woman in question had been arrested for prostitution. She alleged that Cohen “put a knife to her throat and pushed her head against the wall.” Cohen denied that he ever touched her. This bit is new, though…
A spokesman for Scott Lee Cohen says Cohen had the woman arrested for destruction of property.
Sounds like a happy couple, that.
* Chicago Public Radio Web Editor Justin Kaufmann wrote about the situation today and admits that he voted for Cohen…
Let’s go with the Trib’s big story on the arrest record of Lt. Governor candidate Scott Lee Cohen. Something tells me Ray and Rick had this one sitting on the desk for a while and dusted it off when they saw the surprising results. He did have the best campaign commercial though, where, in a poorly filmed shot, he stares down someone off-screen and kind of yells at them about needing more jobs. It was effective. I was scared. I voted for him because his tie was loosened a bit and I didn’t want him to stare me down anymore. I’m like that.
Editors don’t usually like to break sensational stories right before an election, but I think that needs to be re-thought. Jack Ryan’s troubles were well-known - or at least heavily suspected - in reporter circles before he won the 2004 GOP primary. Blair Hull’s domestic violence history was dropped into the end of a Tribune profile story, and was then picked up and pushed into the bloodstream by Trib columnist Eric Zorn, among others.
* The SJ-R editorial page lays out some options and urges something be done…
* As columnist Mike Lawrence recently wrote, the candidates for governor at least should choose their running mates, just as nominees for president do. As entertaining as it might be to watch, it makes no sense from a governing aspect to foist an undesirable running mate upon the gubernatorial nominee. The past two lieutenant governors (Quinn and Corinne Wood, who served under George Ryan) became estranged from their bosses because of corruption.
* The office simply could be abolished. The lieutenant governor has no constitutional duties other than to take the governor’s place if he or she can’t serve or is removed by the General Assembly. The attorney general would be next in the line of succession.
* The governor could give the lieutenant governor something to do. In Ohio, lieutenant governors often are appointed to agency directorships.
* Some states, such as West Virginia, do not have a lieutenant governor, and the Senate president is next in the line of succession.
* The lieutenant governor could be given the duties of presiding over the state Senate, as was the case before the 1970 constitution. The vice president’s power to do so mostly is a formality. Lyndon Johnson wanted to continue being leader of the U.S. Senate when he went from majority leader to vice president in 1961, but Democratic senators promptly rebuffed that idea. The same thing probably would happen here.
I’m not sure how any of this can be done without amending the state’s Constitution. And that would take a vote in the General Assembly and then another vote by the public in November. I also think that Cohen believes he’s mentally prepared for this hurricane. It’s going to take a lot to get him off the ticket. And in the meantime, the Democrats have a horrendous problem on their hands.
* The Question: What do you think Gov. Quinn should do now?