It is too bad Illinois Republican efforts to eliminate the post of lieutenant governor were thwarted last year.
However, if Illinois insists on having a lieutenant governor, candidates should run in tandem with a gubernatorial candidate from the beginning, not just in the general election.
That could be done either by running as a "ticket" in the primary or letting the candidate who wins the gubernatorial primary select a running mate for the general election.
This comes to mind as the filing period is under way for next year's statewide elections.
Several Republican gubernatorial candidates are teaming with or talking to potential running mates. State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka announced Thursday that DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett will be her running mate. State Sen. Steve Rauschenberger ended his quest for the governorship to be the running mate of Chicago businessman Ron Gidwitz. Businessman Jim Oberweiss tried to persuade Kathy Salvi to drop her race for Congress and run for lieutenant governor on his ticket.
Governor-hopeful Bill Brady, a state senator from Bloomington, is keeping his options open at this point which is probably his best course. He has enough of a challenge educating voters about who he is and what he stands for. Adding a running mate would complicate that. There's talk Brady could switch to the treasurer's race, although Brady maintains he wants to be governor.
When a running mate is selected by a candidate, voters aren't obligated to vote for the "team" in the primary. That could lead to incompatible running mates in the fall or a lieutenant governor candidate dropping out, leaving it to the party to pick a replacement for the ballot.
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In an extreme case, it could result in the gubernatorial candidate dropping out. That's what happened in 1986 when a follower of Lyndon LaRouche won the Democratic primary race for lieutenant governor and Adlai Stevenson dropped out and formed a new party rather than run with a "LaRouchie."
Who serves as lieutenant governor isn't just a trivia question for political junkies.
Because the Illinois Constitution gives the lieutenant governor almost nothing to do, the usefulness of the job is highly dependent on a strong working relationship with the governor.
If Illinoisans are going to pay the salaries of a lieutenant governor and staff, they ought to get something for their money. The office has a budget of about $2.5 million.
At least Illinois no longer elects the governor and lieutenant governor separately.
In 1968, that resulted in Republican Richard Ogilvie getting Democrat Paul Simon as his lieutenant. But even they worked together better than former Gov. George Ryan and his lieutenant governor, Corinne Wood, fellow Republicans who barely spoke to each other by the end of their terms.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich has pretty much left Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn to work on his own, which might be best for Blagojevich and Quinn, but isn't necessarily best for taxpayers.
Gubernatorial candidates should spell out not only who they want as their lieutenant governor but what their duties would be.