It was a double whammy for political junkies last week when Republican Dan Proft and Democrat Kwame Raoul announced that they would not be seeking their party's nomination for governor in 2014.
Both would have made their party's primary races more interesting.
Proft because he's so entertainingly caustic. And Raoul because he might have won.
Proft, the morning co-host on conservative talk-radio station WLS-AM 890, is fierce, condescending, dry, intelligent and obviously possessed of towering self-regard — good qualities for a pundit and campaign provocateur; liabilities, it seems at the ballot box. Proft finished sixth out of seven Republican gubernatorial hopefuls in the 2010 primary (the seventh-place finisher had just dropped out of the race) and was a very long shot for 2014.
Entering the race would have forced him off the air, which his demurral statement Wednesday seemed to acknowledge was a factor in his decision not to run. In that statement, Proft vowed to continue "to do intellectual battle with the craven Illinois Ruling Class" (his capital letters) from behind the radio microphone, "and to advance the flag for policies and personalities in furtherance of free minds and free markets."
Raoul, a state senator from the South Side, was less pugnacious and partisan in his "pass" announcement the following day. He said he was mindful of a "desire not to create unnecessary divisions" in his party by challenging the incumbent Democratic governor, Pat Quinn and Quinn's well-connected rival, Bill Daley. And Raoul noted the awkwardness created by his "current role as chair of the pension reform conference committee."
Indeed his leadership position in pension reform cut both ways. That he was well-regarded and powerful enough to have been selected to chair the critical committee added considerably to his plausibility as a candidate. Yet the sensitivity of that job requires him to make decisions and compromises untainted by even the accusation of political conflicts of interest.
Too bad, because the race needed a third, contrasting voice, and only 43 percent of Democrats in a Capitol Fax/We Ask America poll last month indicated they were satisfied with the choice of Quinn or Daley that they were left with after Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced in July that she wouldn't run for governor.
And though it may seem early to you — the primary isn't until March — Labor Day is almost certainly too late for new entries into these races. The fields appear set.
To review, the Republican contenders are state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington, the party's 2010 nominee who lost narrowly to Quinn; state Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale, who lost narrowly to Brady in the GOP primary; Treasurer Dan Rutherford, the only candidate in the field to have won a statewide race; and venture capitalist Bruce Rauner, who has never run for anything.
Rauner has been making some savvy moves lately, such as leading a renewed effort to impose highly popular term limits on state legislators and forming a political action committee to raise funds for Republicans running for the state House. But social conservatives, the party's base, have yet to warm up to him, citing his support for and alliance with such Democrats as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
The website "No Rauner," maintained by suburban Republican strategist Jon Zahm, has dubbed him "Rahmner."
"Pan," one of Change of Subject's regular online commenters, noted that Rauner's refusal to stake out positions on such hot social issues as gay marriage reminded him of another superwealthy Republican political novice, dairy magnate (and current state senator) Jim Oberweis, when he was running his losing primary campaign for U.S. Senate in 2002. This prompted me to propose "Raunerweis" as an alternative to "Rahmner," which led commenter Greg J. to counter with "Raumney."
In what might be a portentous sign that conservatives won't be splitting their vote this primary season as much as they did four years ago, the Conservative Summit Conference last weekend in Burr Ridge voted unanimously (with three abstentions) to support Dillard.
In the interest of fairness, I'll be accepting nominations for derisive nicknames for Dillard at chicagotribune.com/zorn
Excuse me while I kiss the Sky
It's time, fellow bandwagon jumpers; The WNBA Chicago Sky has made the playoffs for the first time in its franchise history and at 20-8 heading into the weekend, neck and neck with the league's two other elite teams, the Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks.
With no quality baseball to distract sports fans and only the weekly offerings of early-season football, the Sky will provide a nice autumnal diversion when the playoffs begin later this month.
I know, I know, women's basketball. It's not the high-flying, rim-wrecking thrill of men's basketball. But the games are often very exciting, and rookie sensation Elena Delle Donne, perennial all-star Sylvia Fowles and playmaking guard Epiphanny Prince are a pleasure to watch.
If enough of us hop on the bandwagon, maybe the games will start showing somewhere other than a digital broadcast subchannel that my satellite dish and maybe your cable system doesn't get. That's my current hoop dream.
From the National Syllable Preservation League
I'm tired of email. Not the medium, which remains a fabulous way to keep in touch, make arrangements and trade information despite the attempts of marketers and self-promotional pests to abuse it. But the word, "email."
It's short for "electronic mail," as I'm sure you know, and only recently our style mavens decreed we could drop the hyphen between the "e" and "m."
Now I'm proposing we drop the "e." So few people use actual paper and envelopes to communicate anymore that the default understanding of the word "mail" (and "letter," for that matter) ought to become that which is transmitted electronically.
For the one out of a thousand times that a missive arrives the old-fashioned way, we can use the term "postal mail" to make due note of the anachronistic choice of delivery system.
Like the "jet" in "jet plane," or the "color" in "color TV," the "e" in email has become unnecessary.
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