IL-18: Becoming Clearer … Maybe

Now that Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock’s (R) resignation announcement has been absorbed and understood, the list of those who may or may not join the replacement field of candidates is becoming clearer, but the election system itself is not yet finalized.

State Sen. Darin LaHood (R), son of former US Rep. and Transportation Department secretary Ray LaHood (R), is now officially running in the upcoming special election. He enjoys high residual name ID – largely his father’s recognition, because the younger LaHood represents only part of Peoria County and a total of three of the district’s 19 counties – and establishment Republican support.

State Sen. Bill Brady, a former Republican gubernatorial nominee who lost to then-Gov. Pat Quinn (D) by just a percentage point in 2010, will not run, but his brother, Ed Brady, who operates the family home building business, chaired his brother’s gubernatorial campaign, and who formerly worked for Jack Kemp’s 1988 presidential effort, is moving forward with plans to enter the race.

State representatives Dan Brady, no relation to Ed and Bill, and Mike Unes both say they are considering launching a campaign. Little action is happening on the Democratic side in what is the safest Republican CD in Illinois. Despite President Obama being the state’s favorite son candidate, he could do no better than scoring 37 percent of the vote here in 2012 against GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

But the candidate situation appears clearer than apparently which electoral system will be employed. According to Illinois law, the entire election cycle must occur within 115 days from the time the governor, in this case Republican Bruce Rauner, takes action to schedule the vote. He has five days to do so once the seat becomes officially vacant, which will occur on March 31. That means the final election will be in late July.

What is less certain is how candidates will be nominated. Having a primary election during this special cycle is not necessarily a foregone conclusion. Certainly, the governor could schedule the primary, but having the 19 county chairmen from both parties caucus among themselves for purposes of choosing a special election nominee is also an option.

It is reported that the governor’s staff is contacting the local county election officials to discuss the implementation of the mandated special replacement election. It is believed that many will make the case that their local elections budget would not cover the cost of two elections, since state and local government finances in Illinois are in a highly challenging status. The financial issue may be what Rauner needs to convince the party officials to hold the county chairmen caucus. Such a move would likely favor LaHood.

Expect this issue to play out over the next week. Obviously, the election process will have to be decided before Rauner announces the special election date(s).

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