Scott Lee Cohen drops out of lt. gov. race

April 24, 2010 3:25:08 PM PDT
Fighting back the tears, an emotional Scott Lee Cohen announced Sunday night he was dropping out of the November race and resigning as the Democratic candidate for Illinois lieutenant governor. Cohen had been under a lot of pressure from party leaders who feared his past association with a prostitute and allegations of domestic violence would hurt the gubernatorial ticket he would share with Pat Quinn.

Cohen made his announcement two days after he met with House Speaker and Illinois Democratic Chairman Michael Madigan.

While Madigan told Cohen his candidacy would jeopardize a Democratic victory in the fall, Cohen says his decision to step down was for his family, not for the party.

Cohen made his announcement at a far North Side bar. With the Super Bowl blaring in the background, the pawn broker-turned-politician choked up as he dropped out.

"For the good of the people of the state of Illinois and for the Democratic Party, I will resign," he said tearfully.

Surrounded by his emotional family, a tearful Cohen said he ran for lieutenant governor because all he ever wanted to do was run for public office, despite his checkered past.

"The people who made mistakes in their lives should stay focused, go for their dreams," said Cohen.

Cohen's dream became a bad one after last week's victory in the Democratic primary election. It was revealed that his former wife accused him of abusing her, and an ex-girlfriend charged Cohen with holding a knife to her throat.

The ex-girlfriend, 29-year-old Amanda Eneman is a convicted prostitute. Saturday, she said she did not think Cohen was fit for public office.

Cohen said Eneman's statement had nothing to do with his decision to drop out.

"Her opinion had no affect on my withdrawing," he said.

Illinois Democratic Party Chairman and House Speaker Michael Madigan probably did have an affect on Cohen. In what Cohen describes as a very friendly meeting Friday, Madigan urged Cohen to step down.

Madigan was taking some heat for not doing background checks on candidates, something that Madigan's spokesperson says is unrealistic for non-slated candidates.

"We are not in the process of trying to big foot candidates. If people want to run for office, that's their right under the law. That's the way it's pretty much always been," spokesman Steve Brown told ABC7.

Governor Quinn was the first to come out and call for Cohen's resignation. Quinn issued the following statement Sunday:

"Tonight he has made the right decision for the Democratic Party and the people of Illinois," Quinn said.

Cohen apologized Sunday to the Illinois residents who voted for him.

"If I let you down, I swear with all my heart, I'm sorry," an emotional Cohen said.

Cohen says Michael Madigan was the only member of the Democratic Party who called him last week to congratulate him on his victory, only to be asked by the party chairman two days later to step down.

Cohen said Sunday night he had not spoken with Governor Quinn, but Cohen said he does plan to vote for Quinn in the fall.


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