As you have probably heard by now, the shocking revelations into the past of Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor Scott Lee Cohen, including domestic abuse allegations, use of steroids, and failure to pay child support, threaten to derail the entire Democratic election campaign strategy, and may even force Governor Quinn to form a third party in order to escape the taint of Cohen as his running mate. Wow. Even in the State of Illinois, where we thought we'd seen it all politically (did we mention that yesterday, former Governor Blagojevich also was re-indicted (mostly a technical formality, but still)), this one is a whopper.
We always try to give the local angle on political stories, so one thing we find very interesting about the Scott Lee Cohen debacle is the involvement of State Sentator and Lake County Democratic Chairman Terry Link. Link, like Cohen, also ran for Lt. Governor, but Link finished 6th out of 6 Democratic candidates, and was crushed in campaign spending by Cohen, who largely spent his own money. Now Link has come forward to say that he warned both of the Democratic candidates for governor (Quinn and State Comptroller Dan Hynes) of Cohen's past, which had been referenced in an article by Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown almost a year ago, but got little notice, because Cohen was not considered a serious candidate.
So why didn't Link simply make this a campaign issue on his own? After all, he was running for the same office, Lt. Governor. You would think this would be great campaign fodder for an opposing candidate. The Daily Herald looked at this confusing situation and said this:
State Sen. Terry Link, a Waukegan Democrat who also sought the lieutenant governor's nomination, said he warned newspaper editorial boards and both Democratic campaigns for governor that danger lurked if Cohen won. He pointed to a months-old Chicago Sun-Times column that made mention of Cohen's past troubles.
He said he never considered running negative ads because he didn't have enough money to pick on one candidate in a six-candidate field, especially when Cohen had said he was prepared to spend upward of $3 million, nearly 10 times Link's campaign bankroll.
"A guy like him should be denounced from the beginning. But who am I to say that? I tried warning people about this guy from Day One, but it's up to the people to do something about it," Link said, insisting it's not "sour grapes."
Wow. "Who am I," Link wants to know.
Link, a calculating politician, but not an especially brave one, may have stepped in it this time. Perhaps he thought he was helping the Dems by speaking up now and saying, essentially, 'I told you so, but you wouldn't listen,' but it's more likely he thought he was helping himself.
Link clearly did not have the political guts to make an issue of Cohen's past on his own, even though he was running for the same spot. He probably figured that by making Cohen a target, he could draw the ire of Cohen, despite the crowded field, and was deathly afraid of having Cohen's deep pockets (stuffed with profits from his pawnbroker operations) invested in negative campaign ads against Link. There's certainly plenty of stuff in Link's own past to dredge up.
Well, if Link thought he was going to ingratiate himself with party leadership and have a chance to be appointed into the spot that he campaigned for (if Cohen were to be forced out), I suspect he's pretty much blown that. Link managed in one fell swoop to embarrass Governor Quinn by making him appear inept, and also took away any chance of claiming 'plausible deniability' that Quinn (or at least his handlers) never knew about Cohen's past.
Looks like we're stuck with Link here in Lake County for a few more years, until he comes up for relection and my friend Keith Gray can take care of him in the election once and for all.