The current latest circus in Illinois (that’s the trial of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich) serves as another reminder of how lucky we are in the Hoosier state. No matter political affiliation, our governors are good guys (I’m sure we’ll make that gender neutral sometime in the not-too-distant future) and have some core basic values — something missing in far too many places.
I’ve had the good fortune to meet our last six governors (Bowen, Orr, Bayh, O’Bannon, Kernan and Daniels; for those keeping score, that’s three each among Republicans and Democrats) and interview the four most recent. The most unique of those engagements would be when sitting governor Otis Bowen’s son served as our high school basketball coach. That was a big deal for the state’s top official to come to a high school basketball game in St. Leon.
Due to several opportunities to interact outside of official interviews, I have to say that I have a strong favorable opinion of Joe Kernan. The fact that the former governor happily provided his cell phone number, hopped in the back seat of my Grand Prix for a ride and shared baseball stories in the stands at South Bend’s Covaleski Stadium are small symbols of a down-to-earth man who has also been an outstanding public servant.
Contrast that with a few of the latest details from Illinois, courtesy of CongressDaily:
The trial of Blagojevich, which is entering its third week, has already gotten off to a rocky start. U.S. District Judge James Zagel ordered the defense and prosecution to come to an agreement on keeping the loudmouthed Blagojevich from waging the trial in public or he would consider slapping gag orders on the defense team.
Prosecutors asked Zagel for the gag order on June 16 after Blagojevich said outside the courthouse the day before that Alonzo Monk, who had just wrapped up four days of testimony as the government’s star witnesses, was lying in his testimony. Monk, Blagojevich’s former chief of staff, is cooperating with the government after being indicted on corruption charges along with Blagojevich.
And if recent history is any guide, Democrats may learn the same lesson from voters that the Illinois GOP did in 2002 in the wake of the bribery scandal that forced Gov. George Ryan not to seek a second term and eventually led him to prison in 2007.
In the wake of the Ryan scandal, the charismatic Blagojevich ran on a platform of cleaning up Springfield and ended 26 years of GOP control of the governor’s mansion. Democrats also took control of the Senate for the first time in 10 years. Blagojevich cruised to re-election in 2006 by tying his opponent to Ryan, and Democrats expanded their majorities in both chambers to near super-majorities.
Ironically, Blagojevich could be the reason that the Democrats again fail to hold onto the governor’s mansion for more than eight years — which they have not done since before the Civil War — and the Illinois GOP is making sure voters are reminded of what Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn said about Blagojevich while sharing a ticket. According to media reports, Blagojevich’s trial is expected to wrap up in September, when the campaign season will be kicking into high gear.