Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Illinois lieutenant governor: They're ready to lead

The next lieutenant governor of Illinois, a place that recently got a lesson in how quickly the "light gov" can be thrust into leadership, most likely will be a government novice who owes the job partly to family connections.

The Democratic nominee is a one-term city council member chiefly known as the daughter of a U.S. senator. The Republican is a 28-year-old who has never held office and won the nomination with the help of his family fortune.

Illinois' last lieutenant governor, Pat Quinn, found himself in charge after Rod Blagojevich was indicted for political corruption and booted from office. This year, voters will decide whether to change the state Constitution so they can recall undesirable governors before their terms are up.

Both Carbondale Democrat Sheila Simon and Edwardsville Republican Jason Plummer insist they're ready to step in and lead the state, including managing the biggest budget crisis in Illinois history.

The state constitution doesn't provide for filling a vacancy in the lieutenant governor's office, which is why no one has replaced Quinn. Some critics call for eliminating the post and letting another official, like the attorney general, take over if there's a vacancy in the governor's office.

"The governor is an exceptionally important position in the United States these days," said Chris Mooney, political science professor at the University of Illinois at Springfield. "Far less damage can be done by a senator or a congressman than by a governor."

Mooney's comments were featured in an October 25, 2010, article by the Associated Press.

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