Doug Finke: If nothing else, voters will have lots of choices

Doug Finke

Filing time to run for state office in 2010 is over. It looks like most of those people who threatened to run are running.

There are 13 people who filed to run for governor. That's seven Republicans, four Democrats and two Greens, all trying to be the next leader of a state with monumental financial problems and a legislature with no apparent will to seriously deal with it.

But at least those people are running for a job that can make a real difference. There are 13 people running for lieutenant governor, a position in Illinois that is most famous – until Pat Quinn came along – for being a job that people quit to pursue bigger and better things.

What about the U.S. Senate? How many are running to fill what used to be known as the Barack Obama seat, but will no doubt now be forever known as the Roland Burris seat, at least at Burris family gatherings? A mere 16 people have filed to run – seven Democrats, eight Republicans and a Green. It's almost not worth holding a primary.

Which do you think is the better job, comptroller or treasurer? Well, six people are running for comptroller while only five are running for treasurer.

Voters only get a break when it comes to secretary of state and attorney general. Their respective incumbents, Jesse White and Lisa Madigan, are running unopposed in the primary.

Not all of these people will necessarily be on the February 2 primary ballot. Some will get booted because they didn't file enough valid signatures on their nominating petitions while others may decide to fold before the ballot is finalized.

For those who relish having a lot of choices for political offices, 2010 will be a bonanza. For others this is overkill. For everyone, the political ads will make listening to the radio or watching TV in January a chore.

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The political ads aired so far have established that Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale, was once Jim Edgar’s chief of staff, that Comptroller Dan Hynes signed state checks and got his hair cut last summer, and that helmet hair is now symbolic of Illinoisans poor choices in governors. (Frankly, that hair thing got old by the second airing).

Based on the campaign ads that have aired so far, voters should have no trouble at all determining which candidate is best suited to lead the state.

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With Christmas merchandise already being pushed by many retailers, Statehouse Insider wants to get into the spirit of the preseason. We'll take a look at the holiday adornments coming to a state Capitol near you.

White's office, which has control of public space in the rotunda, has so far received requests from two groups for displays during the Christmas holidays. The Springfield Nativity Scene Committee will again install a Nativity scene on the first floor rotunda. The display will be put up November 30 and taken down December 28.

The Springfield chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union secured permission to display a document "celebrating the religion clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution." That's the one that starts "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.." It will run from December 14 through December 28.

So far, said White spokesman Henry Haupt, there's been no request for a Menorah. Nor has the Freedom From Religion Foundation make a request to return. Last year the group put up a sign in the rotunda that included the line "religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."

Also absent is another request to duplicate last year's Festivus pole, put up as a sort of protest over all the other religious and anti-religious displays crammed into the rotunda. But it's still early. Religions or anti-religions wishing to participate in this year's observances still have time to apply to White's office for permission to have a display.

And yes, the state will again assemble the official artificial Christmas tree during Thanksgiving week. It will remain until the end of December. The outdoor lights will be on the Capitol dome again this year. The lights will go up Tuesday, weather permitting, but they won't be turned on until after Thanksgiving.

At least the state isn't pushing the holiday envelope.

Doug Finke can be reached at (217) 788-1527 ordoug.finke@sj-r.com.