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A Beachwood Guide to the Primaries: Governor & Cook County President

Still haven't decided who to vote for in the primaries on Tuesday? Let us help.

We've analyzed each candidate's record, studied their policy papers, parsed their campaign contribution data, and spied on their neighbors and family. And then we flipped through the articles written by other news organizations and wrote our evaluations. We are particularly indebted to the Chicago Sun-Times's series of candidate profiles, especially in isolating each candidate's Creepiness Factor. So a blanket nod to The Bright One and everyone else we stole from. Good work!

[See also: A Beachwood Guide to the Primaries: Congress & You; A Beachwood Guide to the Primaries: Judging Not.]


Name: Rod Blagojevich
Current Job: Running for re-election as governor.
Creepiness Factor: For all the hype, his hair sucks. Also, didn't know The Daily Show was satirical. If we were dating him, both would be deal-breakers.
Comment: Has an incumbent governor anywhere at any time in history ever appeared to be such a shoo-in to win his primary and remain the favorite in the general election while garnering such grudging endorsements?

Crain's Chicago Business, for example, put its endorsement this way: "Blagojevich, For Lack Of A Better Choice."

No, really. They did.

The Chicago Tribune, quite honorably, couldn't bring itself to endorse Blagojevich or his opponent, Edwin Eisendrath. Instead, the Tribune resigned itself to a Blagojevich primary win but asked readers to vote for Eisendrath to send the governor a message.

The Sun-Times's endorsement of Blagojevich was pathetic. The paper (whose editorial board remains under suspicion) said Blagojevich "deserves a chance to keep moving forward," as if he's a poor student being awarded social promotion to the next grade.

Let's face it: Blagojevich isn't a very good governor. And why did anyone expect anything differently, because he loves the hobnob of the campaign trail? Blagojevich wasn't a very good congressman, either. In fact, he hasn't been a very good anything.

True, the governor's All Kids health insurance plan probably hasn't gotten enough attention. We'll give him that. But it's hard to think about the children when the adults are behaving so badly.

Name: Edwin Eisendrath
Current Job: Vice President of Academic Affairs at Kendall College
Creepiness Factor: His stealth campaign is almost stalker-like.
Comment: Has a lone challenger to a vulnerable sitting governor whose administration is drowning in corruption ever run as lame a campaign anywhere at any time in history?

Where have you gone, Paul Vallas? A lonely Illinois turns its eyes to you.

If there ever was a time for a maverick independent to run for governor, this is it. If Paul Simon was still around, we'd lead a movement to draft him. If Peter Fitzgerald was still around, we'd root for him to run. Hey, what's Blair Hull up to these days? Anyone have Bob Kustra's number?

Where is our Jesse Ventura? Our Arnold Schwarzenegger? Someone has to jump in because Eisendrath isn't the guy. And neither is James Meeks, who is reportedly considering a run. We don't want a reverend for governor; we've already got one for president.

See how Eisendrath's candidacy even vanished in the space of this item? It's creepy.


Name: Judy Baar Topinka
Current Job: State Treasurer
Creepiness Factor: Joked about farting during her first inauguration as treasurer.
Comment: Has there ever been a more reluctant candidate with a chance to topple a scandal-ridden sitting governor at any time anywhere in history?

Topinka "has spent a lifetime speaking her mind," according to an enamored press corps. But does she have anything interesting to say? Her platform, she says, is Common Sense.

Topinka would really rather remain treasurer, but she's doing her duty. Her duty to the party. See, Topinka has been treasurer since 1995. Before that she served two terms in the state House and a decade in the state Senate.

So she's running as an outsider.

She likes to say she's not "one of the boys."

She probably says that a lot behind closed doors when she talks to her running mate, Joe Birkett, the DuPage County State's Attorney who comes out of the DuPage County Republican Machine, also known as the Let's-Kill-Rolando-Cruz-Despite-The-Evidence wing of the party.

Topinka's leadership skills are proven. As chairman of the state party, she presided over the Republican nomination of sex-club fiend Jack Ryan in the U.S. Senate race, as well as the installation of Ryan's replacement, Alan Keyes, a solid contender for most bizarre candidate in Illinois history.

On the plus side, she called her current primary opponents "a bunch of morons."

Then she took it back, which showed she was just like the rest of 'em.

Name: Ron Gidwitz
Current Job: Running for governor.
Creepiness Factor: Tried to score chicks by volunteeering for John Chafee's campaign for governor of Rhode Island.

"Ron Gidwitz got his start in politics in the mid-1960s, and his interest had little to do with high ideals or public policy," the Sun-Times reported in its Gidwitz profile.

"I had heard there were some very attractive young women working on John Chafee's campaign for governor in Providence, R.I., so I signed up and rang some doorbells," Gidwitz told the paper. " [Chaffee] won . . . but I could not find one attractive woman. That was my first political disappointment."

Comment: Gidwitz is the run-government-as-a-business candidate. His business experience? He inherited the Helene Curtis cosmetics company from his daddy. So yeah, he knows how politics in this state works

Gidwitz told the Sun-Times that his biggest mistake in life was developing a hair-care product called Atune.

"This one cost about $30 million. It was an absolute, total failure," he told the paper.

So again, he's well-suited to be governor.

The Tribune thinks Ron Gidwitz is the candidate to "drain the moat of cronyism and self-dealing that isolates the domed Statehouse from 12 million Illinois citizens."

Unlike Topinka, who called her opponents morons, Gidwitz called the voters morons.

On the other hand, he appeared to be the only adult on the candidates panel that appeared on Chicago Tonight Thursday night, painfully but gamely trying to play ball with the inanity of discussions such as who owned an iPod. (Hell, I don't own one. Does that disqualify me?)

On the other hand, he is still forced to deny he is a slumlord.

Name: Bill Brady
Current Job: State Representative from Bloomington
Creepiness Factor: Take your pick.

"I enjoy asking for money."

"I don't think I've ever read a book more than once, cover to cover."

"I never watch [Leno or Letterman]. But that's not good. Don't say that. Who would I like
better? I probably like Letterman better."

"He once made [his wife] take back a purse she had bought for herself. It was a pretty fancy purse, she said. He said, No, I'm to buy you those things. That should be a gift."

Comment: For a multimilionaire with business interests in an arena football team, two radio stations, a furniture store, home construction, and real estate, he sure seems like a dull guy.

Name: Jim Oberweis
Current Job: Ice Cream Magnate
Creepiness Factor: Ice Cream Magnate. Although his operation looks pretty good.
Comment: In 2001, Oberweis said the Taliban "is what can happen if we try to impose our religious views on others."

At the Illinois State Fair in August, he slammed Republican national committeeman and uber-consultant Bob Kjellander for his lucrative deals with the Blagojevich administration. Kjellander was seated behind him when he did it.

And that Shake and Cone Club looks pretty good.

Hey, this guy makes a lot of sense!

I wonder what he thinks about immigrants.

Name: Andy Martin
Everything About Him: Priceless.


Name: John Stroger
Current Job: Cook County President
Creepiness Factor: If he could be trapped in an elevator with anyone, he told the Sun-Times, it would be Sen. Dick Durbin.
Comment: Let's face it, John Stroger sucks. I know he's ill, and we wish him a speedy recovery. But he built a new county hospital, had it named after himself, and then went to Advocate Trinity Hospital and later transferred to Rush University Medical Center when he wasn't feeling well.

So John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital is, at best, John H. Stroger Jr.'s third choice for medical care.

Stroger is as old-school as they come. And not in a good way. He was the only black committeeman to support Richard M. Daley over Harold Washington in 1983. He also supported white candidates who ran against Barack Obama, Bobby Rush, and Roland Burris.

That isn't to say a black politician should be expected to only support other black politicians. Hardly. It is to say he has managed to build a huge base of black support while kowtowing to the Daley clan, where his first loyalty lies. So that's whose interests he serves first.

The mess of county government under Stroger is so well-documented as to be tiresome.

He should retire for health reasons. Then he and his organization should be blocked from engineering his replacement. And then he should enjoy reflecting on his long political career, in good health and with the gratitude of those he served.

Name: Forrest Claypool
Current Job: Cook County Commissioner
Creepiness Factor: He is what passes for a reformer in Cook County.
Comment: Claypool is the obvious media favorite. But the newspaper editorial board bloc only controls so many votes.

As the superintendent of the Chicago Park District, he seemed little more than a Daley tool with an eye for manufacturing good PR. Is he a poser? Or a policy wonk? Perhaps he believes in a little bit of reform--just not too much.

If he wins, he isn't likely to stay at County long. He could be a mayoral or gubernatorial candidate. Which could also make him the next Paul Vallas. Go Phillies!


Name: Tony Peraica
Current Job: Cook County Commissioner
Creepiness Factor: Vice President of International Scouting, Boy Scouts of America
Comment: Running unopposed for the GOP nomination. Posted Neil Steinberg's controversial Stroger column front and center on his Website even as he issued a statement about how Stroger was in his prayers.


Posted on March 16, 2006

MUSIC - December In Chicago Drill.
TV - Don't Weaken Media Ownership Limits.
POLITICS - Another SRO Crisis.
SPORTS - TrackNotes: Mom.

BOOKS - How Stereo Was Sold To A Skeptical Public.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Chicago Footwork King's Bail Battle.

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