Election 2006 versus Election 2010 in Illinois

Yesterday I noted the basic notion that personnel matters – in fact, as with sports or business, the quality of the people on the team is the most important factor for success. Even if there’s a great game plan or product, the ability of the performers is the difference between achievement and failure.

Before looking at the Illinois roster, it’s important to note that potentially more of the electorate is paying attention in 2010 than they were in 2006. The rise of the TEA party like groups has been a delight to watch. Unfortunately, from my vantage point they didn’t impact many primary election races last month, and voter turnout belied the existence of a “new day” in Illinois politics.

To the candidates: In 2006 we didn’t have a U.S. Senate contest, so let’s cheat a bit and quickly review the 2008 and 2004 GOP nominees. In 2008 Steve Sauerberg was the candidate, and in 2004 the less-than-enlightened Republican State Central Committee chose Alan Keyes to fill the spot vacated by Jack Ryan.

Sauerberg was as unexciting as Keyes was crazy. So how does Mark Kirk compare? RepublicanNewsWatch.com has reported on the facts regarding Kirk’s record extensively, and others will carry that work forward so voters will be able to make an informed decision in November. Facts are stubborn things, and from speaking with many Republican rank and file voters around the state it’s clear to me that not everyone wants to close their eyes or hold their nose and pull a lever in the ballot box. We saw what that got us the last time Republicans held power.

Moving to governor in 2006, Judy Baar Topinka was our nominee. This time we have Bill Brady who only won because of the nature of the crowded primary. Some people have said Bill has stumbled out of the gate, but there is ample time for a recovery and GOP voters will all soon see if Bill is able to find his footing.

The Lt. Governor ballot spot in 2010 is held by a nice young man named Jason Plummer. Last time Joe Birkett wrecked his credibility by running alongside Topinka. When a 28 year old is an improvement, well, that says a lot.

For Attorney General in 2006 was an impressive Republican State’s Attorney named Stu Umholtz. This year, some guess that Democrat Lisa Madigan will set yet another new vote total record taking out a man named Steve Kim. Kim was invisible during the primary since he was unopposed, and it’ll be up to him and his team to figure out a way to get attention against the popular Madigan.

For Secretary of State the Democrats are again running Jesse White, who seems to keep running for the last time. Odds makers can judge if this will really be his last hurrah or not. His opponent in 2006 was Dan Rutherford, who this year has dropped down on the ballot to the Treasurer’s race. This year’s GOP S.O.S. is Robert Enriquez, a socially liberal candidate who is a first time entry into the big leagues. Enriquez has potential it would appear, but I’d argue he’s as much of an unknown as he is untested. However, he won’t be an unknown or untested come election day.

Illinois Republicans had a chance to nominate a terrific candidate for Comptroller in Jim Dodge last month but instead chose the tired and embarrassing Topinka. In 2006 the Republicans fielded Dan Rutherford for this office. Next to the A.G., odds makers will rank this is as the least likely pickup for Republicans. The money is on Democrat candidate David Miller, an impressive African American, sending old Judy back into retirement once again.

For Treasurer, Republican Dan Rutherford takes the spot held by Christine Radogno back in 2006. The discussion of combining the constitutional offices of Treasurer and Comptroller looks better now than it did in 2006.

This year could be a better year for Republicans down-ballot (the races lower than governor) than it was in 2006, but again, it’ll depend upon how well each candidate performs. It seems evident more voters are listening – and open to tossing out the incumbent party. But Illinois is a special case. Good Republican years nationally have bypassed Illinois because of the failures of GOP leaders and activists.