Next year will feature Illinois’s first post-Blagojevich election for governor. Republicans think they have a good shot at taking back the executive mansion they lost when a member of their own party disgraced it. Here are the contenders so far, in handicap order, left to right, likeliest first.
state senator, Hinsdale
STRENGTHS: Worked for Jim Thompson and Jim Edgar, the only governors of the last 35 years to escape indictment. Like them, Dillard is a moderate who can win a general election; backed by big-money donors, such as Ron Gidwitz.
WEAKNESSES: Suspect conservative credentials (appeared in an ad for Barack Obama). Vulnerable to flip-flop charge (voted to legalize video poker machines but now says he’d “reconsider” that decision as governor.)
state senator, Palatine
STRENGTHS: The go-to GOP spokesman during the Blagojevich impeachment trial. GOP point man on a bill for a special election to fill Barack Obama’s Senate seat. Outspoken against tax increases.
WEAKNESSES: Only in the Senate since 2007 and is unknown outside his district in the northwest suburbs. Former trial attorney, a suspect profession to GOP. Has been dragging his feet on forming a campaign committee, leading many to doubt he will stay in the race.
state senator, Bloomington
STRENGTHS: Has been running since 2006, when he finished third in that year’s gubernatorial primary. Conservative true believer (he even recommended repealing broad eligibility for All Kids, the children’s health insurance plan). Great public speaker.
WEAKNESSES: Some think he stayed in the 2006 race as a spoiler to draw votes away from Jim Oberweis. A wealthy developer, he may appear elitist. (He once put his legislative plates on a Porsche.)
DuPage County board chairman, Naperville
STRENGTHS: As DuPage county board chairman, presides over the heartland of the Illinois GOP. Running a county that’s bigger than several states makes him the only candidate in the race with executive experience.
WEAKNESSES: No statewide name recognition. Declining popularity (said to be running for governor because he can’t win re-election in DuPage).
political commentator, Wheaton
STRENGTHS: True-believer conservative with no attachment to current system. Visible GOP pundit (frequent appearances on Chicago Tonight and Don Wade & Roma give him name recognition). Catchy slogan: “Illinois isn’t broken. It’s fixed.” Rails against the “Chicago 9” who run the state.
WEAKNESSES: Alan Keyes campaign aide in 2004 for U.S. Senate. Has never held elective office.
former telephone book publisher, Hinsdale
STRENGTHS: After selling his share of his business, founded ForTheGoodOfIllinois, an organization that encourages local governments to post their checks online. Has an exotic, hard-to-pronounce name, like Barack Obama.
WEAKNESSES: Has an exotic, hard-to-pronounce name, like Rod Blagojevich.
Photography: Chicago Tribune photos by (Dillard) Bill Hogan, (Murphy) Abel Uribe, (Brady) Nancy Stone, (Schillerstrom, Proft, Andrzejewski) Candice C. Cusic