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The legislature’s annual dalliance with a massive expansion of gambling was on display Wednesday when Democrats who control the Senate held a hearing featuring an appearance by the state’s top gaming regulator. The meeting quickly devolved into a series of testy exchanges between senators and Illinois Gaming Board Chairman Aaron Jaffe, who is aligned with Gov. Pat Quinn — the man who has blocked previous gambling expansion plans.

Jaffe, a former judge, has been a frequent critic of the legislature’s gambling expansion proposals, mimicking Quinn’s claim that they lack critical language that would protect the industry from corruption.

He said the latest proposal, which would add five casinos and allow slot machines at horse racing tracks and at Chicago’s airports, is an untenable behemoth at more than 500 pages.

“It’s impossible to read,” Jaffe told the Senate Executive Committee.

The legislation features a provision that would replace all members of the gaming board, a move that Quinn and others find very curious given Jaffe’s reluctance to go along and get along.

“It’s the wrong way to go and everybody knows that,” Quinn told reporters last week. “I think we’ve got to protect the independence of the gaming board.”

The governor also raised the specter of Chicago’s long history of political shenanigans as a reason why any proposal must be tough on corruption.

“I think we have to be exceptionally careful in places like Chicago, so we don’t have wrong people in gambling doing bad things,” Quinn said.

“We have the city of Chicago which has had some very serious problems in the past with organized crime. I want to make sure we never let that creep into legal gaming in this state,” Quinn said. “We the people don’t want bad characters infiltrating gambling in the state of Illinois.”

Supporters of the expansion proposal say they are listening to Jaffe and the governor’s concerns, but the early money has it that they probably won’t in the end. When it comes to gambling expansion in Illinois, Wednesday’s hearing showed it’s still not a good bet.

Miss America

Jockeying for a slot on the 2014 ballot has been underway for months, with wannabe candidates eyeing runs for governor, attorney general and other statewide offices.

The potential candidates have been making the rounds to party dinners and political fundraisers.

So, when Erika Harold’s name recently surfaced as a featured speaker at two county-level Republican functions, it made sense to ask her if she’s considering some kind of political bid next year.

You might have heard of Harold from another kind of contest. The Champaign County native and University of Illinois graduate was Miss America 2003. That victory helped pay for her to attend Harvard Law School and she is now an attorney in Chicago.

Last year, her name was floated as a potential candidate for Congress in Illinois’ 13th congressional district. Party honchos instead chose Republican Rodney Davis of Taylorville as the GOP standard bearer.

On Tuesday, she’ll be speaking at the Lincoln Reagan Dinner in Bloomington sponsored by the McLean County Republican Committee. In March, she spoke at a GOP dinner in Effingham.

Harold, an African-American Republican, told me last week that she has been encouraged to consider running for office, but currently has no plans to do so.

“I’m not going to be jumping into an already crowded governor’s race,” she quipped.

Indeed. But what about lieutenant governor? Harold just laughed.

Secret government

Michael Scott Carter, another African-American Republican from Chicago, floated his name as a candidate for state treasurer last week, apparently figuring that current treasurer Dan Rutherford of Chenoa will leave the seat vacant as he seeks to become Illinois’ next governor.

Already, however, this self-described conservative media pundit and entrepreneur is being dogged by questions over transparency. In a press release announcing his candidacy, for example, the political newcomer invited potential supporters to a “meet and greet” event at an undisclosed location. In order to find out where the meeting is, you have to send in an RSVP. We asked his campaign staff for a location, but they never responded.

Crossing paths

The Illinois Association of Realtors is hosting an event at a Springfield hotel Monday featuring Quinn and Attorney General Lisa Madigan as guest speakers. Quinn is scheduled to speak at 2:45 p.m. His potential opponent in next year’s Democratic gubernatorial primary race is scheduled at 1:10 p.m. Why not just put them together on stage and let the 2014 election season really begin?

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