SPRINGFIELD - The Republican nominee for lieutenant governor insists there aren't any skeletons in his closet that could bring him down amid a blaze of damaging allegations like his Democratic foe Scott Lee Cohen.
"I don't think there's anything in my past," 27-year-old Jason Plummer told the Daily Herald. "I'm proud of what I've done. I'm proud of what my family's done."
Plummer, of Edwardsville, whose campaign was largely financed with family money, said he's never been arrested or taken illegal drugs. That's a far cry from charges Cohen faced following the Feb. 2 primary for the lieutenant governor's office.
Cohen, a Chicago pawnbroker, was arrested in 2005 for allegedly holding a knife to his girlfriend's throat. The charges were later dropped and Cohen staunchly denied them, but allegations of steroid abuse and other claims of physical violence arose from divorce records. Cohen eventually agreed to leave the ticket after Democratic power brokers clamored for his withdrawal.
Plummer characterized the whole Cohen debacle and the crisis facing the Democratic Party as "unfortunate."
"If anyone's taking pleasure in what's going on over there, there's something wrong with them." Plummer said.
Renewed questions about the merits of the lieutenant governor's office arose following Cohen's win. Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat, proposed a constitutional amendment that would abolish the office starting in 2015. One Democratic lawmaker even suggested Gov. Pat Quinn get a head start and campaign without a running mate.
The state Democratic Party, which Madigan chairs, must pick the party's nominee for the post to run jointly with Quinn in November. A seemingly endless list of names has been suggested as possible replacements for Cohen, ranging from former congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates to state Rep. Art Turner of Chicago, who came in second in the primary.
Cohen has yet to file paperwork formally announcing his withdrawal, but he has turned the completed documents over to Madigan's office, which said it will file them when state offices reopen for business Tuesday after the President's Day holiday.
The Democrats have until late August to name a replacement, but the decision could come within weeks. The party's central committee is scheduled to meet March 15, but that meeting could be moved to an even earlier date.
Meanwhile, some have questioned whether Plummer, a political newcomer himself, is fit for the job. He's only a few years out of college and the bulk of his political experience is from his days as an intern under former U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald and the Heritage Foundation.
"Someone who's saying that probably hasn't met me and probably doesn't know much about me," Plummer said. "There's a difference between age and experience."
Plummer's also served as chairman of the Madison County Republican Party. He's currently the vice president for corporate development for R.P. Lumber, his family's business. He also serves in the U.S. Navy Reserves.
Plummer said he's far more experienced on leadership issues than Comptroller Dan Hynes or Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias - two Democrats who were young and relatively inexperienced when first elected to statewide office.
"For the thousands and thousands of people in the state that are unemployed," he said, "I don't think they care how old the person is in Springfield that's fighting to get them a job."
Plummer is also without a running mate as there still is no clear winner in the Republican primary for governor. State Sens. Kirk Dillard and Bill Brady are still waiting for votes to be counted.
Plummer said he's been in contact with both candidates and is confident he'll be able to work with the winner.
"It's not like we're going to have to mesh two polar opposites together," Plummer said. "All three of us are very similar. We're opposed to tax increases. We want to change the business climate in the state. We want to address the culture of corruption in Springfield."