Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


Gubernatorial Gambit

By Shawn Healy
This coming June, former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's criminal trial resumes, and it is likely to lead him to a place that two of his immediate predecessors have already frequented: prison. During the intervening months, both parties will hold primaries to select his successor, hoping for an alternative fate regardless of the victor. Believe it or not, the state gubernatorial primary is a little more than three months away. Although the inter-party battles have largely stayed under-the-radar to date, they will undoubtedly heat up as the mercury outside dives.

Case in point was last Wednesday's Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Forum at the Union League Club. Five GOP contenders were on hand for an occassionally testy "conversation" that lasted a little more than an hour: Adam Andrzejewski, Bill Brady, Kirk Dillard, Dan Proft, and Bob Schillerstrom. Chris Robling of the Union League Club served capably as moderator.

Andrzewski, former owner of a family publishing business and founder of a good government organization, ForTheGoodOfIllinois, celebrated his lack of Springfield experience parallel to the not-of-Washington jingle so typical of national politics. A self-styled "real Republican reformer," Andrzewski alluded to the work of Bobby Jindal in Louisiana, and pledged similar efforts to tackle political corruption in Illinois through fiscal transparency.

Brady, a member of the Illinois General Assembly since 1993, promised to bring back business leadership to Springfield. He owns and operates Brady Homes. Brady would roll back the tax and fee increases imposed by Blagojevich, and offer tax incentives to bring back jobs to Illinois. In the realm of reform, he also favors term limits, campaign contribution limits, and computerized redistricting.

Dillard, a former judge and Chief of Staff to popular Governor Jim Edgar, is a sitting state senator and thus boasts a resume with experience in all three branches of state government. He acknowledged that Illinois is a state in crisis, citing its 48th place ranking in economic development and multibillion dollar budget deficit. Dillard is wont to celebrate his political experience, offering a laundy list of legislative accomplishments including ethics reform and truth-in-sentencing guidelines. He pledged to close his campaign fund upon election, and also to make Illinois a "destination economy."

Dan Proft, a PR professional and political commentator, surfaced as the anti-Dillard. He said that this race is not about one's resume, but instead the will to take the fight to the Chicago Democrats who control the levers of political power statewide. Proft promises a "clear, contrast reform vision," including fundamental reforms of the state pension plan, K-12 funding (statewide school choice), and Medicaid. He sees the state in "cardiac arrest," and returned to his slogan that the "system isn't broken; it's fixed." Proft pledged to form nontraditional coalitions around single issues, doing an end-around the tired ways of Springfield.

Schillerstrom, chair of the DuPage County Board, also clung to the experience mantle. He holds great hope for the state, yet recognizes that its government has regularly failed the people and their institutions. Schillerstrom said that we need to look no further than the Springfield culture, where its elected inhabitants spend more than they take in. He pointed to his eleven years of executive expertise where he ran a government larger than six states, paying bills on time, balancing the budget, and seeking efficiencies in governmental operations.

In a mostly civil exchange, only a couple of the barbs flung found traction. They were thrown by the two darkhorses, Andrzejewski and Proft, the former critical of Brady's tax plan, which he claimed offered benefits only at the margin, and the latter's rhetorical question to Dillard about the effectiveness of the ethics law he sponsored ("How is that working?").

When asked to name their role models, the candidates paraded the usual Lincoln and Reagan responses, but Proft claimed John Paul II, and Andrejewski Casmir Pulaski. All of the candidates save Schillerstrom articulated pro-life abortion positions, and Dillard offered a qualifier in favor of stem cell research.

Notably missing from the affair were former state party chairman Andy McKenna, who will officially announce his candidacy on Tuesday, and former attorney general and 2002 gubernatorial nominee Jim Ryan, who remains in the exploratory phase of his campaign. However, the five candidates assembled left those in the audience with plenty of food for thought and eager to see the two Democratic contenders, Governor Pat Quinn and Comptroller Dan Hynes, stage the same routine on November 18.


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Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project

Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.

Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.

First Amendment journalism initiative

The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at