The lieutenant governor of Illinois is the Rodney Dangerfield — no respect — of state politics.
Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon's announcement that she will not seek another term in that office reinforces two common perceptions:
— Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn is in deep political trouble and will have tremendous difficulty winning his party's nomination for another four years in the governor's office.
— The lieutenant governor's office is a pointless political post useful only to wannabes who want a launching pad for another office. Only the most dedicated slacker could be happy as lieutenant governor.
In seeking her political divorce from Quinn, Simon, the daughter of the late U.S. Sen. Paul Simon, indicated that she's looking for another state office to seek. A former prosecutor and law professor, she clearly would be interested in running for attorney general. But that office won't be open unless incumbent Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan opts to challenge Quinn. She might also be interested in running for comptroller or treasurer, two offices now held by Republicans.
Her decision leaves Quinn in a pickle because he's got to find another running mate. Speculation in Chicago is that he'll find a black man or woman to run with him as a means of shoring up his vote total with black voters in Cook County. His problem is that running mates don't help that much, leaving Quinn in deep trouble if either Madigan or William Daley decides to take him on.
As for the lieutenant governor's office, it's way past time to get rid of it.
No governor would ever tolerate his lieutenant governor being given important statutory duties because that would allow his underling to secure an independent political base. Conversely, legislators like House Speaker Michael Madigan are loath to do away with an office they can use to reward some up-and-comer who wants to build name recognition before seeking a real job.
Indeed, this office may represent the perfect metaphor for Illinois' dysfunctional state, devoid of value but a drain of taxpayer resources. Give Simon credit for being smart enough to flee both it and Quinn.