'Lite' governor should go

'Lite' governor should go

There's a lesson to be learned from state Sen. Daniel Biss' political fiasco.

Biss, a Democrat from Evanston who is one of a handful of candidates for his party's gubernatorial nomination, last week accidently provided another reason why Illinois should eliminate the office of lieutenant governor.

Not only is this statewide constitutional office largely without real and important duties, it's often been, for a variety of reasons, nothing but trouble for the governor.

People who've been around for a while remember the torturous political marriage between former Gov. Dan Walker and Lt. Gov. Neil Hartigan, both Democrats but arch political foes. Then there was former Gov. Jim Thompson's lieutanant, Dave O'Neal, who quit mid-term because he said he had little to do.

Legislators thought they could reduce the political headaches associated with the job by changing the law so that a gubernatorial candidate could choose a running mate to fill the lieutenant governor's slot — someone with whom the governor would be simpatico.

But that process, too, is problematic because the only thing the lieutenant governor's office really is good for is raising the officeholder's political profile so he/she can run for a more substantive office. That limits the available political talent.

Of course, there also is the matter of choosing a running mate who brings a different ethnicity or sex to the ticket. That's one of the reasons Gov. Bruce Rauner selected the low-profile Evelyn Sanguinetti as his political partner in the 2014 election race.

But selecting a running mate is risky business, as Biss recently proved when his choice blew up in his face. In the first major decision of his campaign, Biss selected largely unknown Chicago Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa.

Problems immediately began to crop up because Biss really didn't know the individual he chose. It wasn't that Ramirez-Rosa is a hard-core leftist and professed socialist; Biss is also a man of the left.

But Ramirez-Rosa also has a deep antipathy toward Israel, supporting the movement to boycott the country that raised questions of anti-Semitism that Biss found to be politically and personally problematic.

It wasn't long before the partners were bickering about who said what to whom. Biss said Ramirez-Rosa told him that he didn't support the boycott, a statement Ramirez-Rose denied.

Biss ultimately dumped Ramirez-Rosa, a man he had praised as "someone unafraid to take on entrenched power" and "unashamed to always stand with the working families of Illinois." He quickly found another, state Rep. Litesa Wallace of Rockford.

The whole thing was an epic disaster, one in which Biss alienated some of his traditional supporters by picking Ramirez-Rosa and then alienated hard-core leftist supporters by dumping him.

It's just more proof that lieutenant-governor candidates and officeholders can do very little to help the candidate for governor and a whole lot to hurt them.

Who needs that? Certainly not the people of Illinois and not even the top-level politicos of Illinois. So let's wise up and rid the state of this pointless office that chews up taxpayer dollars.

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johnny wrote on September 14, 2017 at 4:09 pm

I couldn't disagree more.  This our best (and often only) insight into whom a governor would appoint and surround himself with once elected.