Thursday, March 04, 2010

Picking a Back-up

More than a month after the primary election, and it's still not over. The Republican gubernatorial primary seems to be approaching the finish line -- votes will be counted and certified, and there will or will not be a recount -- and the outcome will be clear soon enough. On the Democratic side, who, if anyone, will run with sitting Gov. Pat Quinn seems completely up in the air. Since the Greens are all sewn up, and the Republicans are well on their way, let's take a look at the Democratic process.

When a flurry of post-election bad news led Scott Lee Cohen to decline the nomination after winning the primary, state law made clear the process for Democrats to name a replacement: the State Central Committee should meet and declare a candidate. That's the process whenever a nominee withdraws, whether it's months or, as in this case, mere days after the primary.

The State Central Committee is now holding an open casting call to pick a replacement. Applicants are invited to post their resumes, references, and recommendations on the Illinois Democratic Party website. But the Committee is not bound to pick from among the applicants on the website, or even to pick anyone; it's possible the slot will remain vacant. In the meantime, people who play along have had their personal contact and biographical information, including birthdates, home addresses, and cell phone numbers, posted unfiltered for all the world to see -- not a terribly sensitive way to treat presumably sincere applicants.

Many have called on the Committee to pick state Rep. Art Turner, who placed second in the primary (and who, for what it's worth, has not yet applied through the website). We have nothing against Rep. Turner, and have worked with him on several legislative matters. But it is not clear that Turner would have won had Cohen not been in the race. It's not even clear that most Democrats were happy with Cohen's victory (after all, most voters voted for someone else). If Illinois used a run-off system, requiring a majority of the votes before declaring a winner, there'd be a clear indication of who would have won the voters' votes. But that's not the law these days.

We hope the Democratic State Central Committee will conduct this search with transparency and input from ordinary Democratic voters, and in a manner that respects the dignity of the process as well as the applicants. Choosing nominees of the major parties is a central element in the election process; it should be conducted in a way that gives the voters more confidence that they matter.

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