Gov. Pat Quinn (D-IL) has now declared that the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, businessman Scott Lee Cohen, should consider withdrawing from the race in the wake of publicity surrounding a 2005 arrest for domestic violence.
Cohen allegedly threatened his girlfriend at the time by putting a knife to her throat and throwing her against a wall. The case was dropped after the woman, who had previously been arrested for prostitution and later pleaded guilty, failed to show up to court.
“I do believe that the person who’s had these matters brought up about himself should at least have a chance to talk about them to the public, but if his explanations are unsatisfactory, and so far they have been, then he has to do the appropriate thing,” said Quinn. He added: “Our country and our state are bigger than ourselves. The Democratic Party is bigger than me or any other candidate. If there are matters that are raised about your conduct that disqualify you from running in a proper way for an election in the fall, then the only appropriate thing is to step aside. And I think that’s what we’re looking at here.”The big problem Quinn has here is that while Cohen is technically his “running mate,” in the sense that they will be listed together on the general election ballot in the same way that we vote for president and vice president, Quinn did not pick him. Candidates for governor and lieutenant governor in Illinois are nominated in separate primaries, but then run together as a ticket.
Quinn won his own primary with just over 50% in a two-way race. Meanwhile, Cohen was nominated with a 26% plurality in a field of six candidates — and Quinn has an obvious political problem on his hands.
This system of nomination infamously led to a serious problem in Illinois elections back in 1986, when a LaRouche activist won the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor. The Democratic nominee for governor, former Sen. Adlai Stevenson III, then took the extraordinary step of abdicating his own nomination by the Democratic Party, and instead forming a third-party ticket in order to run in the general election with a mainstream Democrat at his running mate.
In the end, incumbent Republican Gov. Jim Thompson won re-election with 53% of the vote, to 40% for Stevenson’s “Solidarity Party” ticket.