Must be desperate times for the GOP

 
 
Published9/16/2007 6:04 AM

There is an amendment in a bill before Gov. Rod Blagojevich that I would call the DuPage County GOP panic pact.

The amendment would alter the election code to change the minimum nomination petition signature requirement for county offices in DuPage County to 1.5 percent of voters from 0.5 percent of voters.

 

And who wants to make it three times harder for people to become candidates for county offices -- and only in DuPage County?

None other than state Sen. Dan Cronin, who also happens to be the new chairman of the DuPage County Republican Party. This is his amendment.

You know it won't be entrenched Republicans in a still-sturdy GOP county that will have trouble meeting a higher threshold for eligibility for county office. No, this seems aimed at Democrats, who are becoming more popular among DuPage County voters.

Now I used to think the DuPage Democrats were causing a little bit of flutter in Republicans' stomachs.

But you have to have a stomach. And this is gutless, when you have to change the law to gain political advantage. And to single out DuPage County smacks of special legislation that is presumably unconstitutional in this state.

What, DuPage County Republicans can't say: "Bring it on Democrats; we are confident we can still beat you with good candidates, with persuasive candidates? We don't care if you can become eligible for election with 10 signatures on your petitions. It doesn't matter to us. We beat you before, and we will beat you again and again."

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Make no mistake; Democrats are making gains in county offices, at least in county board races. In the 2004 general election, Democrats for county board on average got 38 percent of the vote. In 2006, Democrats for county board on average got 44 percent of the vote.

But is that so frightening to throw DuPage County Republicans into such a panic that they must have political protectionist legislation passed in a brazen attempt to try to keep Democratic candidates from getting their names on the ballot? And keep in mind, none of the Democratic candidates for county board in 2006 won.

Yet maybe what's scaring them is the fact that Democrats are longer doomed to lose in DuPage County.

The person who got the most votes overall in DuPage County in the 2006 general election was a Democrat -- Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. The candidate with the second most votes was also a Democrat -- Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White.

And remember, Tammy Duckworth nearly defeated Rep. Peter Roskam for Henry Hyde's former U.S. House seat.

Maybe the motivation is to try to cut Democrats off at the petition pass so there will be that many fewer of them getting a potential big boost in the upcoming primary if Democratic Sen. Barack Obama manages to bring out a strong vote in his favor in his campaign for president.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Maybe, too, this is aimed at third parties, such as the Green Party. To make sure candidates of this party -- who have more trouble gathering a sufficient number of petition signatures than Republicans or Democrats -- don't pose a threat or drain off votes from Republicans, to the Democrats' advantage. Or maybe this is about not only thwarting Democrats and third parties, but also stopping maverick Republicans from getting on the ballot, to preserve GOP incumbency.

But whatever fear the DuPage County GOP has of political opposition should be channeled into campaigning that much harder. Not by tinkering with the election code, which makes them look timid and desperate.

Blagojevich should use his amendatory veto power to strike this amendment. He has no reason to be mad at Democrats in DuPage County and every reason to disappoint Cronin by not letting him get away with this stunt.

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