THE IS NOTHING LIKE A HARD WORKING PERSON TO LEAD ILLINOIS OUT OF ITS CURRENT STATE OF DECLINE. BELOW IS A LIST THAT SOME PEOPLE SAY CAN DO IT.
Now that U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin has decided to stay in Washington, Illinois Democrats finally have come to the realization that, to unseat the hated Gov. Bruce Rauner, they're going to need a candidate to run against him.
The last couple of weeks have been abuzz with Democrats from Cairo to Waukegan suddenly strutting their stuff, waving their checkbooks and leaking tidbits to friendly media. If anything there are too many candidates, but, hey, you can't beat somebody with nobody.
The would-be governors sort of fall into three categories. Let's start with arguably the oddest: the 1 percent club.
They include billionaire tech maven and hotel scion J.B. Pritzker, who has begun to call around to make the case that only a Democrat with big money is positioned to compete with Rauner, who likely can and may well drop $100 million to win a second term in 2018.
"I think (Pritzker is) likely to get in (the race)," says state Sen. Heather Steans of Chicago, who called me on his behalf. "With all the dysfunction in Springfield, having outside leadership and perspective can be helpful." Pritzker is "a different guy" since he lost his bid for Congress back in 1998, she adds.
Of course, things could change if his big sister, U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, decides to enter the race when her Washington gig expires next month. I hear that's unlikely but not impossible, though she wouldn't be helped any by her backing for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal or her vote to close dozens of Chicago public schools when she served on the Board of Education a few years ago.
Then there's the not-quite-as-wealthy but better-known Chris Kennedy, the former long-time operator of his family's Merchandise Mart and ex-chairman of the University of Illinois board. After months of lying low, he's been notably active lately, with a formal announcement expected as soon as next month. Among Kennedy's backers are former top aides to ex-Gov. Pat Quinn, as well as consultant Hanah Jubeh and state Senate Democratic Political Director Brendan O'Sullivan.
Kennedy has feinted in the direction of public office before, however, only to jilt the electorate at the altar. And he literally ran away from reporters at last summer's Democratic National Convention rather than answer questions, not a promising sign.
Category two includes a variety of midrange Democrats. Each has a following but would have to scramble to widen their base.
For instance, state Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston, reminds me of the late Dawn Clark Netsch with his focus on fiscal probity and thoughtful backing of progressive causes. He raised $10 million for an anti-Rauner TV blitz this fall but insists it's not about money. "I really don't like the theory of 'we'll pit our billionaire against their billionaire,' " he says.
Two downstate officials are known to be considering a run, too, U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos of western Illinois and state Sen. Andy Manar of Bunker Hill. Both have been successful in regions that the Democratic Party statewide has all but abandoned in recent decades.
But Bustos recently accepted a job in House Democratic leadership that will be difficult to walk away from, even if she has Durbin's rumored backing. That could make Manar, the former chief of staff to Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, the man to watch in a crowded field, especially if he's able to consolidate labor behind him.
Also in this category is south suburban U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly. The only African-American who seems to be seriously eyeing this contest, Kelly has some statewide experience as former deputy state treasurer, she ran for state treasurer (losing to Republican Dan Rutherford), and she served as a top aide to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. At least as good, billionaire and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg spent $2 million on TV ads pushing her House candidacy and perhaps could be convinced to open his wallet again.
The real question is whether Kelly is willing to give up a safe House seat for a shot at unseating Rauner.
I've got one other category. Let's call them the loooong shots.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan almost certainly isn't going to run unless her father, House Speaker Mike Madigan, gets out of the way. (Don't hold your breath.) Illinois Treasurer Mike Frerichs does not seem inclined to roll the dice, and one of his top aides is backing Kennedy. Two other officials from Chicago, Treasurer Kurt Summers and North Side Ald. Ameya Pawar, 47th, are fine fellows with upside potential in their careers, but not that much upside potential.
We'll see how many of these folks actually file and whether someone else drops in, such as top Barack Obama aide Valerie Jarrett, who seems interested in doing something after she and her boss leave the White House next month. The real question for the Dems: Which of them is best