Election date: Feb. 2, 2010
Who's elected: Party nominees for congressional, legislative, state and county constitutional officers, judges
Other issues: Advisory referendums must be set by Nov. 30
Length of filing period: One week, ends Monday, Nov. 2
To search for candidates: http://www.elections.state.il.us/ElectionInformation/CandFiling.aspx
State Board of Elections: http://www.elections.state.il.us/Default.aspx
Last day to object: Monday, Nov. 9
Early voting: Begins Monday, Jan. 11; ends Thursday, Jan. 28
SPRINGFIELD - In the early morning darkness, the line outside the state's election office stretched down and around the block, filled with candidates - known and unknown - who'll soon flood mailboxes and TV screens with fliers and ads competing for your votes in February.
Monday was what could be called the official start of the 2010 campaign season, the first day for all those who've said they are running to either put up - by filing their nominating petitions - or shut up.
"We legally kick off the campaign today," said Kirk Dillard, a Hinsdale Republican seeking the GOP nomination for governor.
"From this, it's a sprint to primary day," said Winfield state Sen. Randy Hultgren, one of four Republicans who filed paperwork early Monday to seek the Republican nomination in the 14th Congressional District.
The Feb. 2 ballot features an array of hot contests, including an open U.S. Senate seat, all 118 Illinois House seats and an increasingly crowded race for governor. The scene outside the Illinois State Board of Elections headquarters just south of the Capitol resembled an ultimate political insiders tailgate party with a few people camping out a day in advance for key line positions and the line swelling to a who's who of Illinois politics.
A trip through the line might find a suburban judge vying to stay in a new job or a second generation seeking to follow in the first's legislative footsteps.
"It's part of the American process," said recently appointed Appellate Court Justice Ann Jorgensen, thumbing through the stack of petition signatures she'd brought to Springfield. "You think abut all the people willing to participate in the process. It's very gratifying that this many people would be willing to help get me on the ballot."
Up ahead of Jorgensen, Chicago Democrat Art Turner, a longtime state lawmaker, was talking of his run for lieutenant governor while Art Turner II, 27, talked of running for his father's seat in the Illinois House.
"I grew up in a political family. I grew up watching Dad," said the younger Turner. "I'm eager to serve my community."
Candidates for statewide office such as governor and U.S. senator need to file petitions totaling 5,000 signatures to get on the February ballot. Most turn in 10,000 - the legal max - in a symbolic gesture of their widespread support and to cover the inevitable errors likely to be found and potentially disqualify some signatures.
The first day of filing sparked competition among the Republican hopefuls for governor with Dillard, DuPage County Board Chairman Bob Schillerstrom and Bloomington State Senator Bill Brady each seeking to portray himself as the early front-runner.
"It's a traditional day here. It's great to be part of the early filers," said Brady, calling it a sign of "weakness" for a candidate to not make the opening day.
The campaigns of Democratic heavyweights Dan Hynes, the state comptroller, and Pat Quinn, the current governor, both filed petitions to run for governor, though neither was personally present at the elections office early Monday.
The exact field for the February elections has yet to be set. Candidate filing continues for a week, closing next Monday, Nov. 2. Former Republican state Attorney General Jim Ryan said Monday on his Facebook page that he'll file petitions to back his bid for governor on the final day and several other candidates are expected to take the same approach.
Conventional political wisdom has it that candidates either want to be first or last on the ballot, believing that voters unfamiliar with the candidates are most likely to pick one of those positions than someone in the middle.
"It's easier on the eye," explained Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful Jacob Meister as he waited with his petitions near the front of the line.
Quite simply, when it comes to ballot position the first to file gets listed first and the last, last. And that's why scores of political wannabes line up in the hours before the elections headquarters opens at 8 a.m. Everyone in line as of 8 a.m. is considered first. If two or more candidates for the same office are essentially tied, state elections officials will later have a drawing to determine the prime top ballot position.