In the wake of the recent announcement by popular State Representative Kathy Ryg that she would resign to take the job of President of Voices for Illinois Children, potential candidates on both sides of the aisle started making moves, some behind the scenes and some a bit more public.
The immediate issue, of course, is that the Lake County Democrats need to appoint a replacement to serve the unexpired portion of Ryg's two year term, which is up for election next November and for which petitions already are being circulated (why does it seem like it's always election season for something in Illinois?). Under the system used by the Dems, State Senator and Lake County Dem Chairman Terry Link can basically make a unilateral decision on a replacement. Link, of course, recently announced that he would be running for Lt. Governor in 2010 (his senate seat is not up for re-election until 2012). [See some State Fair video of Link here, courtesy of Capitol Fax. He didn't look too dynamic to me...]
The front-runner for the Ryg appointment may well be Buffalo Grove mayor Elliot Hartstein, who has already taken the bull by the horns and announced that he will run for Ryg's seat, and would very much like to be appointed by Link. TA doesn't know Hartstein well, but understands that he has a close relationship with Link. While I initially thought that Hartstein's very public and loudly announced move was meant to put Link in a bit of a political box, maybe this has all been worked out in advance. Given the criticism the Dems recently gave Lake County Board Chairwoman and State Senate candidate Suzi Schmidt for supposedly not being open about her recent appointment decisions of two replacement county board members, the Dems will take care to make it at least appear that the fix isn't already in, if they are smart.
While Hartstein is the only new candidate to officially surface, TA hears on the street that several others are seriously considering throwing in. On the Republican side, banker Mark Peterson is supposedly seriously considering a run. Peterson is the son of recently-retired and long time Senator Bill Peterson and has not previously run for office. He is the President of Business Development for Bridgeview Bank Group. Dad Bill Peterson is still Vernon Township Supervisor and the last TA heard, is still sitting on a lot of cash in his campaign account, so if Mark P. decides to enter the race, his father's political ties and money will make him a serious primary contender against current front runner and Green Oaks attorney Dan Sugrue. TA hears that Peterson's talk of running has already caused a few local politicos to hold off on offering endorsements and support to Sugrue, so this is a significant development.
Another name heard on the street is Buffalo Grove trustee Lisa Stone (what is it with Buffalo Grove?). Stone is known as a feisty activist, whom Hartstein has called a "smart, independent thinker," who is "tenacious" and "relentless." Look here for Stone's village trustee website, which is pretty darn impressive for a local candidate. State Rep. Sid Mathias and County Board Member David Stolman were Stone's honorary campaign chairmen and resoundingly endorsed her candidacy for trustee.
Interestingly, a few weeks back, TA seemed to be getting a lot of hits on the Blog by people searching for "Lisa Stone, Congress". A 10th Congressional District candidacy obviously did not evolve (at least not yet, there's still some time left...), but it seems like the 59th District events have opened up a new vista for Stone, perhaps.
The question, though, is whether Stone would run as a Republican or a Democrat. TA hears from a very reliable source that Stone is considering running under the GOP banner, although her voting record suggests a Dem voting history. Given the likelihood that Hartstein will get the nod from Terry Link, and has said he will run regardless, Stone would have a decent chance of having to battle her mayor in either the Dem primary or the general election, should she and Hartstein win the respective nominations of the two parties. On the other hand, maybe this would be an opening for Stone to take over as mayor of Buffalo Grove, but I don't have much of a handle on the local scene down there, so I don't really know if that's where this may be headed. (UPDATED 08/24/09 7:00 a.m.: there were a few political events over the weekend, notably the conservative Republican Assembly of Lake County picnic, but no sign of Mark Peterson making the rounds. That may not be a big shock, however, since #1) the folks at the RALC picnic are Dan Sugrue's bread and butter and about the last place M. Peterson would be expected to make his public debut, and #2), if M. Peterson does get in the race, the initial focus will be on a lot of back-channel maneuvering by dad Bill Peterson to line up support before Mark hits the street.)
U.S. SENATE UPDATE: This week, a poll released by Rasmussen had Mark Kirk leading the front-running Dem contender, Alexi Giannoulias. This apparently spooked the Dems so much that they started casting around for a better candidate (TA hears that this has been going on for some time, actually) and may have identified Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart as a possibility. Just this morning, however, Michael Sneed at the Sun-Times claims that a new Dem poll shows Giannoulias leading Kirk with a bigger lead than what the other poll supposedly showed Kirk having over Alexi. Upshot, there's still a lot of time for polling and forming voter opinions, so don't get too wrapped up in all this too much, too soon, is TA's advice.
Meanwhile, in addition to declared candidates downstate Judge Donald Lowery, minister Eric Wallace, Internet pundit and serial litigator Andy Martin, newcomer and attorney/developer Patrick Hughes threw in for the Senate race.
Hughes' entry could be interesting. I have some inside knowledge of Pat, who was a law school classmate of mine at DePaul Law School in the early 90's. Pat is a smart, articulate guy, and may become the darling of the right-to-life, conservative wing of the party. But with numerous candidates now vying for what faction of anti-Kirk vote exists in the party, whether any of these folks pose a serious threat is questionable.
Pat has no political experience and will be learning as he goes. I already noticed that some of his campaign literature seemed to be lacking the proper funding disclosures, although his website appears to get it right. Pat also apparently failed to kiss the ring of conservative blog Illinois Review before announcing, which they didn't appreciate. So, it seems clear that rookie mistakes will be made along the way.
Neither of us were known as the hardest workers back in law school, so given that Pat isn't in for a cakewalk to first capture the lion's share of the conservative vote (I doubt either Wallace or Martin are going down without a fight), and THEN he must confront Kirk's mainstream popularity (and I expect Kirk will have enough money to be on TV statewide for the Feb. primary), we'll see how long Pat keeps interested in this little flight of fancy.
UPDATED 08/24/09 7:00 a.m.: Here's a note from Dennis Byrne talking about Mark Kirk's planned townhall on healthcare, where he expects the Obama health care program supporters to be bussed in from all over. The secret is, though, that Kirk has faced this kind of artificial campaigning before and should take it in stride.