SPRINGFIELD -- The political dance that's already taking shape leading to the 2014 race for governor has an extra step compared to the past, and it could make things more complicated.
Because of a history in recent decades of Illinois governors and lieutenant governors who were mismatched or didn't get along, a new state law says candidates for governor have to pick running mates to run as teams in the spring 2014 primary election.
"We had a situation where they ran separately, and then whoever won each of those primaries was stuck with each other," said House Deputy Majority Leader LOU LANG, D-Skokie, who sponsored the legislation that passed in 2010. "Now, we've got a situation where they have to choose to link arms and run together."
That law was passed following another almost-debacle for Democrats. SCOTT LEE COHEN, owner of a pawn business whose brushes with the law surfaced only after he won the nomination for lieutenant governor, resigned that nomination, paving he way for party leaders to pick a replacement, which is how SHEILA SIMON became lieutenant governor. Gov. PAT QUINN backed the choice, and at least they are on the same page.
While the Cohen incident provided a push, Lang said he had long thought the previous system was illogical.
Indeed, Illinois has a checkered history of pairings. Before the 1970 Illinois Constitution was passed, the top two offices were not only nominated separately, but elected separately. That's how Democrat PAUL SIMON — Sheila Simon's late father — became lieutenant governor to a Republican governor, RICHARD OGILVIE, from 1969-73, the only time in state history that's happened.
The new constitution paired the winning primary candidates for the two offices as a ticket in the general election, creating results that have ranged from uncomfortable to goofy.
There was the 1972 election that brought maverick Democrat DAN WALKER to the governor's office. But he didn't trust his lieutenant governor, NEIL HARTIGAN, who was a product of Chicago's Mayor RICHARD J. DALEY's machine.
In 1986, a follower of political extremist LYNDON LaROUCHE, MARK FAIRCHILD, won the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor, forcing Democratic nominee ADLAI STEVENSON III to form a third party to distance himself from Fairchild — dooming Stevenson's chances in a rematch against then-GOP Gov. JIM THOMPSON.
Quinn ascended to the top post with the impeachment and removal of former Gov. ROD BLAGOJEVICH. But even before all that drama, it was known that Quinn and Blagojevich virtually never talked.
One solution to this situation would have been the presidential model, where, after a primary for governor, the nominee picks a running mate.
"But I'm not sure that's a great plan, either," for the state, said Lang, "because then that person is not submitted to the voters at all."
Page 2 of 3 - KENT REDFIELD, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Illinois Springfield, said the new law will let voters see how each candidate for governor makes the key running-mate decision.
"If you choose wisely, that may help you," Redfield said. "If you make a bad choice, don't vet somebody, that can hurt you."
Illinois sometimes has had many candidates for governor. Seven Republicans were on the 2010 primary ballot. Perhaps the need for a running mate for each will narrow the field, but maybe not. That raises the question of where all those running mates will come from.
Redfield said candidates certainly don't want to have happen to them what happened to 1992 independent presidential candidate ROSS PEROT, whose running mate, decorated Naval officer JAMES STOCKDALE, hurt the ticket by asking in a debate, "Who am I? Why am I here?"
Redfield wondered if there will be separate primary and general-election debates for lieutenant governor candidates. But despite such logistical questions, he said he thinks it's good to have a lieutenant governor.
"I think it's good to have the governor pick them," he added. "There's more chance of getting something positive out of this relationship than was the case before."
State Sen. KIRK DILLARD, R-Hinsdale, who came within 300 votes of being the GOP nominee for governor in 2010, apparently is one of the people who will have to choose someone to run with. He says it is likely he will run again in 2014.
As in presidential elections, Dillard said, "the selection of the number two person generally, unless the person's a disaster, doesn't make a great deal of difference.
"I would assume that the gubernatorial candidates in both parties are going to look to cover geographic, gender and/or racial balance." He did say it is a problem that the new system "precludes you from picking a candidate who might have been impressive in the gubernatorial (primary) field."
Dillard said he thinks governor candidates will want "a public policy partner and someone you personally are comfortable with to be your lieutenant governor. It helps to have a true partnership, like JIM EDGAR and BOB KUSTRA." Dillard was chief of staff to then-Gov. Edgar.
One of Dillard's potential opponents for the GOP nomination for governor is U.S. Rep. AARON SCHOCK, R-Peoria, who is trying to present himself as the new face of the party versus the old guard.
"How about a Dillard-Aaron Schock team," joked Dillard. "It provides geographic balance, and he could still be governor by the time he's 40."
Schock is 31. Dillard is 57.
Other possible GOP candidates are 2010 nominee and state Sen. BILL BRADY of Bloomington, state Treasurer DAN RUTHERFORD and Chicago businessman BRUCE RAUNER.
Page 3 of 3 - A Democratic primary race for governor could get intense. Quinn has indicated he intends to run again. But with Attorney General LISA MADIGAN and former presidential Chief of Staff William Daley also talking about a possible run, who knows what might happen?
At least in 2014, primary voters will know what team might lead their party in the general election.
Bernard Schoenburg is political columnist for The State Journal-Register and GateHouse News Service in Springfield. He can be reached at (217) 788-1540 or follow him via twitter.com/bschoenburg. His email address is email@example.com.