SPRINGFIELD – Political battle lines were officially drawn Monday in the race for Illinois' chief executive as Democratic incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn and four Republican challengers were among nearly 400 politicians who offered nominating petitions on the first day of filing.
Hoping to replace Quinn as the first GOP governor in more than a decade are state senators Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard, venture capitalist Bruce Rauner and state Treasurer Dan Rutherford. Tio Hardiman of Hillside, the former head of anti-violence nonprofit CeaseFire, also filed to run in the Democratic primary against Quinn, who's been governor since 2009.
In the race to take on U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat who is seeking his fourth term, state Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, and businessman Doug Truax of Downers Grove submitted nominating petitions.
All nine candidates for the top-of-the-ticket races were represented at the head of the line when the doors of the State Board of Elections in Springfield opened at 8 a.m. That means they qualify for a lottery drawing to determine who, in their respective primaries, will be listed first on the ballot, said Rupert Borgsmiller, elections board executive director.
Of the roughly 380 candidates who filed Monday, most had the same idea, lining up in the early morning hours to get a crack at the top ballot listing, considered a prime spot because some voters choose the first name they see.
"It's like the excitement of the holidays. You come and stand in line with your comrades and hope for the best," said Urbana alderwoman Carol Ammons, a Democrat seeking to replace retiring state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana. "It's important to be here with everybody else. My team worked hard [getting signatures], so I want to take the petitions in and get the race on."
Also filing for the vacant 103rd House district seat in east-central Illinois were Democrat Samuel Rosenberg of Champaign and Republican Kristin Williamson of Urbana.
House candidates of established parties must gather at least 500 signatures; 1,000 for Senate hopefuls. Those running statewide must coax at least 5,000 people to sign petitions. Candidates often turn in more than required, but Borgsmiller pointed out that, in the case of statewide candidates, for example, only the first 10,000 are considered if there are challenges to the validity of signatures.
"We stopped counting when we reached the 10,000-signature limit, but petitions just kept coming in," Dillard said in a prepared statement after he and running mate Jil Tracy, a GOP state representative from Quincy, filed petitions. "This is a humbling experience to know that voters from all across the state have put their faith in Jil and me to fix our state."
Dec. 2 is the last day that candidates can file petitions. Those who want to object to petition signatures may do so until Dec. 9, Borgsmiller said, and the lottery for ballot position will be Dec. 11. That will be for top position among those in line first thing Monday, and those who file between 4 and 5 p.m. Dec. 2, and want to occupy the last place on the ballot – also a coveted position because of voters' whims.
Despite the sub-freezing temperature Monday in Springfield, many candidates, including Kane County associate circuit Judge Marmarie Kostelny, who wants to fill a circuit judge vacancy, thought it was important to be there.
"Judges are insulated from the political process," the Elgin Republican said. "This is an opportunity to throw myself into it."
State Elections website: http://www.elections.il.gov
Contact Political Writer John O'Connor at https://twitter.com/apoconnor