--Posted by Westside's Guy at U of I
Before college, I often disregarded the area south of Chicago, writing it off as a non-factor both politically and socially. However, my time spent here in this simple and surprisingly comfortable central Illinois town has given me new perspective on the importance of cities not on a Metra line. Champaign County, home to $300 drinking tickets and endless miles of cornfields, has taken up residence in my heart. The upcoming Illinois gubernatorial primaries are taken very seriously all over the state, with particular emphasis in this area. Residents do not just care about government agricultural subsidies, but rather about state wide issues and policies, a fact sometimes missed by candidates. Governor hopefuls must give the same due and attention downstate as the do to Chicagoans. Blagojevich’s refusal to live in Springfield and instead remain in Chicago isolated him from an already alienated demographic hurt by inattention and neglect. The Republican primary is going to be interesting to say the least, and as in prior elections, central and southern Illinois may indeed hold the key.
NOTE: I have not followed the election as closely as I should to confidently make these predictions, but please accept it nonetheless.
People trust Bill Brady. His commercials speak too many in this area and to small town residents in general. The commercial invokes a sense of pride in one’s work, a fact inherent in small business owners and self employed farmers. Work ethic and integrity are put to the forefront, a trait missing from a Republican Governor in quite some time. As Bush was able to do in national elections, Brady’s wealth seems to evade people, rather focusing on the shared quintessential upbringing and his identification as a “good ol’ boy.” I don’t know the sentiment or poll numbers up north, but Brady should pull in significant votes throughout Illinois, especially in towns with less than 10,000 people.
Jim Oberweis comes off as to radical to be a seriously considered candidate. I’ve read a few interviews he did here with students, and he can’t help but offend people. His takes on immigration, regardless of its merit, alienate him from many voters. Rural constituencies fail to identify with a candidate farther right than themselves, and also with a man of considerable wealth and power who will look out for the “little guy.” Oberweis will get votes if only preying on people’s ignorance and prejudices, but not much else. Even though I would sell my soul for a chocolate-marshmallow milkshake right now from his magnificent ice-cream chain, I still wouldn’t vote for him.
Finally, on to everyone’s favorite life-time smoker and Republican front runner: Judy Barr Topinka. For a large spectrum of reasons I love JBT. Not only is she from Riverside, a town which has been very kind to me, but a distant friend of the family. People like her in many circles, and she appeals to moderate Republicans and conservative Democrats alike, enhancing her voter base statewide.
Around these parts, Brady may have been considered an early favorite, but her recent commercial featuring former Gov. Jim Edgar eliminated doubt of her victory. (On a side note, it really amazes me how people celebrate and worship Jim Edgar like he is such an able politician. He was a mediocre governor at best, and yet everyone loves him. It’s like Jimmy Carter, everyone finds him so lovable and tend to forget his disappointing and unsuccessful Presidential term. What makes people completely change their opinion of someone once they leave office, is it because they no longer fear their ineptitude? This still puzzles me.)
Regardless, the fact that she is a woman and her political views, coupled with Blagojevich’s ineptness these past four years will make her Illinois’ first female governor. (I can remember a year ago when Blagojevich spoke at a rally for the Illini basketball team and was soundly booed by the audience. It was hard to hear him over the protests). Honestly, I think she will bring credibility and honesty back to the Republican party and perhaps turn the tide of Democratic thinking in this state. I really like Judy’s political views, or maybe it’s her red hair, either way she’s got my vote.
cross posted at Illinoize