Lt. governor hopefuls 'audition' for job

March 20, 2010 7:42:25 PM PDT
Democratic Party leaders met with dozens of people across the state Saturday who are interested in running for Ill. lieutenant governor.People from all walks of life came out to explain what would make them the best person to serve as Gov. Pat Quinn's running mate.

At the end of the day, Illinois Democratic leaders chose 17 finalists from more than 250 online applicants for the job. Whomever the Democratic Central Committee chooses next Saturday will become Gov. Pat Quinn's running mate in the November 2 election.

The finalists include two legislative leaders. Chicago state representative and assistant house majority leader Art Turner was second in the lieutenant governor primary, a north suburban State Sen. Susan Garrett is the Senate majority caucus whip.

Earlier Saturday, more than 100 of the applicants attended hearings in Chicago, the suburbs and Springfield. It played out like an political audition.

Potential nominee Jay Rehak, for example, hoped to wow the state Democrats who will pick the party's next nominee for lieutenant governor.

"A citizen candidate should be a part of the final process selection. If it's not, then I think there is something amiss," said potential nominee Rezak, an Illinois educator and author.

Rezak is one of more than 250 people who applied online for the nomination after the voters' choice, Chicago pawnbroker Scott Lee Cohen, dropped out amid allegations of domestic abuse.

"I've worked on campaigns. I'm honest, ethical. I've never had legal problems," potential nominee Geraldine Conrad said.

"It's an opportunity to be a part of hope and change," said Diane Phillips, also a potential nominee.

The party's Central Committee will vote officially on a nominee in one week.

"The passion that we're hearing from these people who have never been engaged before is really impressive," said Barb Brown, vice chairman, Democratic Central Committee.

Although committee member, Illinois Democratic Party chairman and Speaker of the House Michael Madigan has sponsored a constitutional amendment to eliminate the position in 2015, the current vacancy must be filled.

"Our function here today is to make our selection process extremely open, extremely transparent," Madigan said.

Interview sessions took place at six locations across the state.

While former deputy treasurer Raja Krishnamoorthi, who lost the Democratic nod for comptroller by a less-than-1-percent margin, made his pitch for lieutenant governor, Lake Forest Democrat and State Sen. Susan Garrett emerged as a possible frontrunner.

"Other people had put my name out there as somebody who may be a good candidate, and I was asked to put my name in, to fill out the forms," Garrett said.

The state's number two spot has been vacant since Pat Quinn took over as governor following Rod Blagojevich's ouster. And while the lieutenant governor wields little power and serves a largely ceremonial role, 25-year-old unemployed worker Kevin Glover says he knows he can make a difference.

"If I don't receive the nomination today, I will look for other opportunities," Glover said.

While the lieutenant governor's only constitutional duty is to service as a substitute governor, the office does run several programs and councils.

The lieutenant governor is paid a salary of almost $136,000 per year and commands a budget of roughly $2.5 million.

On the Republican ticket for governor and lieutenant governor are State Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington and Lt. Governor nominee, 27-year-old Jason Plummer of Edwardsville.