SPRINGFIELD - The Illinois Democratic Party will likely select its nominee for lieutenant governor March 27 - more than a month after Chicago pawnbroker Scott Lee Cohen withdrew his nomination after allegations of domestic abuse scuttled his aspirations.
In a letter to members of the party's central committee, Illinois Democratic Party Chairman and Speaker of the House Michael Madigan said the present plan is to convene four meetings throughout the state on March 20 to allow the prospective nominees to present their credentials for the job.
The party would then officially vote for its nominee March 27 in Springfield, he said.
About 200 Illinoisans have applied for the job, which has sat vacant since Gov. Pat Quinn's ascended to the governor's mansion following Rod Blagojevich's ouster. Although it's the No. 2 spot in state government, the lieutenant governor wields little power and serves in a largely ceremonial role.
More than 60 of the applicants are from the suburbs, including state Sen. Terry Link of Waukegan, who unsuccessfully sought the nomination in February. Former deputy treasurer Raja Krishnamoorthi of Hoffman Estates, who lost the Democratic nod for comptroller by less than 1 percent of the vote, also submitted his name for consideration.
State Reps. Art Turner of Chicago and Mike Boland of East Moline are also once again seeking the nod.
Elmhurst electrical worker Thomas Castillo, who unsuccessfully ran for the post earlier this year, had submitted his name for further consideration but withdrew his application to throw his support behind Krishnamoorthi.
While the only constitutional duty is to serve as a substitute governor, the lieutenant governor has been given the tasks of running the Illinois Main Street program, the River Coordinating Council and the Rural Bond Bank of Illinois. The lieutenant governor, paid $135,669 a year, commands an office budget of roughly $2.5 million with 29 staff members.
Meanwhile, several reform efforts have been introduced in the General Assembly to address the lieutenant governor quagmire. State Rep. Lou Lang's proposal to require candidates for governor and lieutenant governor to run as a team in the primary cleared the House Friday. Lang, a Skokie Democrat, had said his proposal "would solve the problem you've heard recently of candidates not being vetted by political parties."
In a more drastic approach, Madigan introduced a constitutional amendment that would ask voters to abolish the office of lieutenant governor in 2015. He simply said, "We don't need the office."