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Illinois Votes on Gov. Nominees

March 19, 2002

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CHICAGO (AP) _ Three Republicans and three Democrats battled Tuesday for the chance to replace scandal-tainted Gov. George Ryan, while a former aide to President Clinton sought the Democratic nomination for a Chicago congressional seat.

Democrats are hoping a bribery scandal that haunted Ryan will give them a chance to win the governor’s seat for the first time since 1972. Rep. Rod Blagojevich, former state Attorney General Roland Burris and former Chicago schools chief Paul Vallas generally agreed on the issues, but that didn’t stop a flurry of negative ads.

The Republican candidates _ Attorney General Jim Ryan, Lt. Gov. Corinne Wood and state Sen. Patrick O’Malley _ spent much of their time trying to distance themselves from the sitting GOP governor.

The winners face off Nov. 5. Illinois is one of 36 states holding elections for governor this year and one of 17 states in which the incumbent is not running.

Clinton’s legacy played a role in the battle for the open 5th Congressional District on Chicago’s North Side. Ex-Clinton aide Rahm Emanuel faced former state Rep. Nancy Kaszak in a hard-fought Democratic primary to replace Blagojevich. Another Clinton aide, Pete Dagher, was also running.

The winner is expected to have the edge this fall in the heavily Democratic district.

Most of the sparring in the governor’s race was between Blagojevich and Vallas, who argued over guns and abortion _ even though both support abortion rights and gun control. Burris even pleaded with his opponents to pull their negative TV ads in the name of party unity.

All hope to capitalize on the misfortune of Gov. Ryan, whose popularity plummeted amid broken campaign promises and a federal investigation of the swapping of driver’s licenses for bribes, which occurred mostly when Ryan oversaw license bureaus as Illinois secretary of state. Federal prosecutors say about $170,000 in bribe money ended up in the governor’s campaign fund. He has not been charged with wrongdoing.

Jim Ryan _ no relation to the governor _ ran ads calling Wood a ``full and equal partner″ in George Ryan’s administration.

The lieutenant governor and O’Malley accused the attorney general of knowing about the license scandal but doing nothing about it. They also criticized Jim Ryan over his handling of a 1983 murder case when he was DuPage County prosecutor. Three men went to prison but were later released amid questions about the investigation.

One of the men is among the 13 Illinois inmates whose death sentences have been overturned since capital punishment was reinstated in 1977. That record led George Ryan to place a moratorium on executions in 2000.

Jennifer LePretre, a voter on Chicago’s South Side, said she wasn’t surprised by the negative tone of the governor’s race.

``It got into a lot of mudslinging and skirting the issues but it’s a typical campaign in Chicago, especially for a primary,″ she said.

The campaign for the 5th District, which runs from Lake Michigan to O’Hare International Airport, was equally negative. Emanuel, 42, sought campaign help from Clinton, while Kaszak, 51, called him a Washington outsider and argued she had deeper roots in the district.

The race took a nasty turn two weeks ago amid accusations of anti-Semitism. A Polish supporter of Kaszak suggested that Emanuel, who is Jewish, was a citizen of Israel and served for two years in the Israeli army. He also called him a ``millionaire carpetbagger who knows nothing about our values.″

The comments about Emanuel’s supposed Israeli background are not true and Kaszak repudiated the remarks. But Emmanuel contended the remarks reflected a ``whispering campaign″ of anti-Semitism against him in the district.

Kaszak had the backing of Emily’s List, a national political network for Democratic women who support abortion rights. The group took its support a step further, criticizing Emanuel for his work on passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement and as an investment banker making millions of dollars brokering mergers and acquisitions.

In other races:

_Three Republicans _ attorney John Cox, state Rep. Jim Durkin and dairy owner James Oberweis _ sought the nomination to face incumbent Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin in the fall.

_John Schmidt, a former associate U.S. attorney general, fought state Sen. Lisa Madigan for the Democratic nomination for attorney general in a race that became a referendum on the clout of Madigan’s father, state Democratic Party chairman and longtime House Speaker Michael Madigan.

_A GOP primary race for Illinois Supreme Court pitted appellate court Judge Robert Steigmann, an outspoken conservative, against Justice Rita Garman, who was seeking a full 10-year term.

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