Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Republicans pick running mates and begin to build platforms

By Jamey Dunn

Today is the first day that candidates can begin circulating petitions to get on the ballot, and Republican gubernatorial contenders have started announcing their running mates and are shaping their political platforms.

State Treasurer Dan Rutherford announced via Twitter that he chose Steve Kim, the 2010 Republican candidate for attorney general, as his lieutenant governor candidate. This is the first race under a new that law requires candidates for governor and lieutenant governor to pair up and run together during the primary election. If the Rutherford/Kim ticket goes all the way, Kim would be the first Asian-American elected to a statewide office in Illinois. Rutherford plans to hold a news conference on Thursday to announce officially that Kim will join his campaign. On his Twitter page, Rutherford said he would also announce the “unique and substantive” role that Kim would play in his administration. Kim has is a lawyer with a background in business and served as an adviser to former Gov. Jim Edgar.

Sen. Kirk Dillard, a Republican from Hinsdale, made several stops around the state today to showcase Republican state Rep. Jil Tracy as his running mate. However, he first made the announcement on Twitter yesterday. Tracy, a Republican from Quincy, has served in the House since 2006. She is originally from the Carbondale area and holds a law degree from Southern Illinois University. She worked as an assistant attorney general under former Republican Attorney General Jim Ryan. “Rep. Tracy is someone who could easily step in and be a great governor in the governor’s chair in Springfield. She thrives on getting things done for the people of Illinois, and she has the legislative experience to know how things work in Springfield. But like me she’s mature enough to know how things really ought to work in Springfield, and there is a difference,” Dillard said in Springfield today. If elected, Tracy said she hopes to be an ambassador to the business community and “find out how we’re going to create jobs in the private sector for people in Illinois.”

Republican candidate Bruce Rauner rolled out his plan to make changes to the Illinois General Assembly, including imposing term limits on lawmakers. Rauner is backing a constitutional amendment that would reduce the number of senators from 50 to 41 and increasing the House from 118 to 123. According to a news release from Rauner, the change would “make Senate elections more competitive and save the state money.”

The proposal also calls for changing the threshold to override a governor’s veto from a three-fifths majority to a two-thirds majority. Rauner hopes to gather enough signatures to get the amendment on the 2014 general election ballot, and he has created a political action committee to help with his efforts. If he does succeed in collecting the signatures needed, the amendment would also likely undergo a court challenge. The Illinois Constitution does allow for citizen-initiated amendments, but it limits them to the “structural and procedural subjects” of the article that governs the legislature. As state treasurer, current Gov. Pat Quinn tried to push a term limits initiative, but the amendment was struck down by the Illinois Supreme Court because it did not meet the standard of affecting both the structure and procedure of the legislative body.

This precedent may by why Rauner’s plan also shakes up the number of members in each chamber. Rauner said he wants the limit for governors, too, but the Constitution does not allow for changes to the executive branch via voter initiative. So term limits for the governor’s office could only be achieved if the General Assembly passed a constitutional amendment and voters approved it during a future general election.

Sticking with the digital trend that Republican candidates seem to be embracing, Rauner released a video via his YouTube channel making the case for his proposal. “Eight years and out for everybody,” he says in the video. “No more of this 30 years in power, making millions of dollars on the side from your law firm or your special deal. No more. Be a public servant: Serve the public and leave.” Dillard today called Rauner’s plan a gimmick designed to “attract attention to himself.” He said reducing the number of senators would leave people in less-populated areas with less representation. “The Senate districts will become so large that one won’t even really have the ability to really even see their senator. And I think it’s a real slap in the face to downstate Illinois.”

Quinn has said he continues to support term limits. However, if he is elected to serve another term as governor, he would exceed the eight-year limit that he once advocated for lawmakers.

There have been no indications yet from Quinn, his Democratic opponent Bill Daley or Bloomington Republican Sen. Bill Brady about their choices for running mates. Current Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon is challenging Republican Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka. One person who will not have to worry about picking a lieutenant governor candidate is Chicago Democratic Sen. Kwame Raoul. He was considering a bid for the governor’s office but announced last week that he would not run. Raoul said he wanted to instead focus on his job as a lawmaker and his role as chair of a special committee working to draft legislation to change the public employee pension systems.

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