Cohen, Plummer to battle for lieutenant gov

February 4, 2010 4:44:12 AM PST
The contest for lieutenant governor nominations was close. But it appears two men with no political experience will be the victors.Jason Plummer, the Republican candidate, is 27 years old and works in his family's lumber business. The Democratic winner, Scott Cohen, made big money running a pawn shop.

You may not know their names but come January one of them may very well be a heartbeat - or an indictment - away from becoming governor of the state of Illinois. They spent millions of their own money to beat better known opponents in a crowded field. But the downside of being a political newcomer is voters might not know what they're getting.

"I was arrested and when she sobered up she dropped the charges," said Cohen.

Scott Cohen concedes he wasn't "at his best" back in 2005. He spent a night in jail after being arrested on a misdemeanor battery charge after an altercation with a woman he was dating.

"It was a horrible time in my life. I got involved with the wrong crowd," said Cohen.

Mr. Cohen, a successful pawn broker, is now the Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor. He spent more than $2 million of his own money in the primary. His ads were everywhere. Flyers talked up a job bank that he says helped several hundred people find work.

On Wednesday, Cohen got congratulatory calls from Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and was preparing to go up against another political newcomer: 27-year-old Jason Plummer.

"I've known him from sitting at the Cubby Bear watching Bears games with him," said Wayne Heusel, Republican supporter.

At 6 foot 8 inches tall, Jason Plummer stands out in a room but it took more than a million dollars of his money for this downstater to stand-apart in the Republican field of Lt. Governor candidates. Plummer leads State Senator Matt Murphy by a few thousand votes.

"He's a good candidate and spent a lot of money and that tends to help!" said State Sen. Matt Murphy, (R) candidate for lt. governor.

"I think if you're looking for a new brand of leadership it needs to come from someone who hasn't been in Springfield a lot. Someone who has been in the real world," said Plummer.

Those who watch money's influence on politics point out self-funded candidates can use their cash to try to avoid scrutiny.

"Whether that person has held elective office or not you want to know what that person's personal and professional track record is," said Cindi Canary, Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.

In Illinois candidates for governor and lieutenant governor do not run together as a team in the primary. It can result in political odd couples like Pat Quinn and Rod Blagojevich or back in the 1980s when Adlai Stevenson quit the Democratic party and ran as an independent after being paired up with some LaRouche backers.

There is a third choice in this race: Don Crawford, the Green Party candidate.