If you’re a committed, socially moderate Republican or a hard-core Democrat, then the Illinois state treasurer’s race is a whole lot more important than you might think.
Don’t yawn. Let me make my case.
Democrats control both houses of the General Assembly. State-wide Democratic officeholders, such as U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, have little to worry about. Republican Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka appears destined to win yet another term.
Change isn’t in the offing anywhere except in two races, one for governor and the other for state treasurer, which pits former state Rep. Tom Cross against Democratic state Sen. Mike Frerichs. Mr. Cross is a former House Republican leader from the southwest suburbs who not-so-secretly aspires to be Illinois attorney general. Mr. Frerichs was first elected to the Senate eight years ago from the Champaign area. He is as ambitious as he is tall (6 feet 8 inches).
Let’s start with the governor’s race. Republican nominee Bruce Rauner says he’s pro-choice and has “no social agenda.” He won the primary by combining that message with vows that he would focus his energy on kicking Democratic and union butts with term limits and a possible government shutdown.
Mr. Rauner consistently has led in every poll, but recent surveys show that the race may be tightening. If he loses, the far right wing of the party will be sorely tempted to declare that they are done listening to the moderates and will demand a far right candidate next time around.
The Republican right wing was able to nominate state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington for governor four years ago. He is one of their own, and they probably would have nominated someone similar this year had Mr. Rauner not come along.
If Mr. Cross also loses, it will be open season on moderates in the GOP. Why? Mr. Cross is, at least publicly, to the left of Mr. Rauner. He voted to legalize medical marijuana, to allow gay marriage and to allow immigrants who enter the country illegally to obtain driver’s licenses.
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