An early skirmish between two candidates for state treasurer bodes ill for the quality of campaign debate.
The candidate filing period doesn't start until December and the November 2014 election is still 13 months away.
But preposterous and exaggerated campaign rhetoric already is flying, and it looks like it's going to be a long year.
Take the recent comments of local state Sen. Mike Frerichs, the unannounced Democratic candidate for Illinois treasurer. He mixed it up last week with state Rep. Tom Cross, the Oswego Republican who is running for his party's nomination for state treasurer. If Cross wins the primary, he'll face Frerichs in the general election.
Cross came to town last week to collect some endorsements from local Republicans, and he took the opportunity to cast aspersions on Frerichs for his support of the 67 percent increase in the state income tax. The tax hike was approved in January 2011 by lame-duck legislators about to leave office, which is typical of the dishonest approach to government that prevails in Illinois.
At any rate, Cross took a shot at Frerichs, entitling Frerichs to respond. There's nothing wrong with that.
But Frerichs fired back with both barrels. Cross, he said, is a "Springfield insider" who had "contributed to many of the most hazardous fiscal decisions leading to our current financial crisis." Cross wants to "cut to the core the very programs that working families" depend on and is specifically aiming at public education and seniors.
Frerichs said he has been trying during his tenure in the Senate, and so far failing, "to clean up the mess Leader Cross helped to create over the past 20 years."
The blood practically boils at the thought of such a moral reprobate daring to show his face in public, let alone run for state office against our local lad who's worked so many hours trying to rid the state of the foul residue of Cross' work.
Actually, it does because Frerichs' characterization was just a little bit off.
Cross is a veteran Republican House member from Oswego, but he's not nearly so powerful or culpable as Frerichs claims.
To have power in Springfield, you have to be a Democrat. Cross is a Republican, and he's spent most of his time in Springfield trying to wipe away the sand kicked into his eyes by Democrats.
Here's a little history lesson Frerichs hopes people don't remember. Illinois is a solid Democratic state. Democrats control the governor's office, both houses of the Legislature with veto-proof majorities, and the Supreme Court.
Republicans last controlled both houses of the Legislature in 1994. They last controlled one legislative chamber, the Senate, in 2003. They last had a Republican governor — George Ryan — in 2003. They're out of power and out of luck, hoping somehow to win back public confidence and begin playing a significant role in the formulation of public policy.
But they're not there yet. In fact, they're not even close. That's why Frerichs' characterization of Cross is preposterous.
That's not to say that Republicans wouldn't have messed up the state as badly as the Democrats if they had held power over the past 10 years. After all, voters turned their backs on them for a reason.
But Cross and the GOP didn't create the current mess because they didn't have the opportunity to do so. They were out, and the Democrats, of whom Frerichs is one, were in. Cross has his flaws. Most politicians do. But Frerichs' rhetoric was so over-the-top that he must have been confusing Cross with Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan.