May 12, 2010


And now for something completely different. This week, instead the customary analysis and opinion, here's an unsolicited, wholly gratuitous and totally unbiased memorandum and recommendation directed to the Republican nominee for governor of Illinois:


To: Bill Brady.

Re: How to beat Pat Quinn.

First, the primary was roughly 100 days ago, and your name recognition is still somewhere between minimal and abysmal. You won the Republican primary by a minuscule 139 votes, getting an unimpressive 18.4 percent of the vote in a five-candidate field. Your political base is Downstate. You got 5.4 percent of the vote in Chicago, 5.1 percent in the Cook County suburbs and 5.9 percent in the Collar Counties.

Since the primary, you've made barely a blip on the political radar screen, and both sightings were negative: You sponsored a bill for a constituent to allow mass euthanasia by carbon monoxide for unwanted puppies. Then you withdrew it. Old news now. You also vacillated about releasing your income tax returns, creating media curiosity. In 2004 and 2005 you made more than $500,000 annually as a home builder and real estate agent. You were victimized by the housing market collapse.

Your 2008 return showed a $389,500 taxable loss which carried over to 2009. The 2009 return showed income of $119,000, but you got a $6,109 federal refund and paid Illinois taxes of $3,309. Quinn paid federal taxes in 2009 of $28,000 on income of $157,000.

Is there cause for worry? Here's an historical analogy. In 1976 Tennessee Republican U.S. Senator Bill Brock, the heir to a candy fortune, rebuffed his opponent's demand to disclose his income taxes, contending it was an invasion of his privacy. You used the same argument. Brock's concealment became a torrid issue. He finally caved, his credibility collapsed when it was revealed he paid no taxes in 1974, and he lost.

In your case, you paid hefty taxes in the past, and you had legitimate losses and offsets. Quinn can try to blast you for being anti-tax because you pay no tax, but it won't work.

Second, the November election is a referendum on Quinn, and the Democratic governor lacks the money, the time and, to use a Rod Blagojevich phrase, the "testicular virility" to go negative.

In 1994, after Republican Jim Edgar won renomination, he unleashed an unanswered media onslaught on Democrat Dawn Clark Netsch during the period from April to July, ripping her as a tax hiker. Ditto for Blagojevich in 2006. Using his ill-gotten pay-to-play donations, Blagojevich spent much of his $25 million during late spring and summer demonizing Republican Judy Baar Topinka, who failed to respond.

According to the latest financial disclosures, Quinn has raised about $4 million, and you have raised less than $900,000. You will need $2.5 million to win in November.

Given the fiscal morass in Springfield, it would be unseemly, if not utterly counter-productive, for Quinn to go negative on you. Quinn has to prove his competency to govern, not your incompetence. With a $13 billion fiscal year 2010 deficiency in revenue, Quinn having proposed generating $2.8 billion by raising the state income tax, the Democratic-controlled General Assembly resisting a tax hike, pension reform an illusion, and school districts and state vendors unpaid, voters are slowly coming to an irrefutable conclusion: That those in power -- all Democrats -- are incompetent and that the governor is a windsock, without spine, blowing in the breeze.

Remember this: Quinn cannot win by demonizing you. He cannot excuse or justify his dismal performance by claiming that you would be worse.

Third, your enduring obscurity is not necessarily a detriment. To be sure, you have not defined yourself. Voters have the vague perception that Bill Brady is anti-tax, pro-gun rights, anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage. That's not a bad mix, but social issues will not resonate in 2010. It's all about dollars.

Like Netsch and Topinka, you are susceptible to being adversely defined. Quinn could try to label you as an "extremist," as Dick Durbin did to Al Salvi in 1996, but being opposed to an income tax hike is mainstream, not extreme, and social issues don't matter.

Fourth, you are the Republican nominee, which guarantees you at least 40 percent of the vote. Topinka got 39.3 percent of the vote in 2006, Jim Ryan got 45.1 percent in 2002, George Ryan got 51 percent in 1998, and Edgar got 63.9 percent in 1994.

Green Party nominee Rich Whitney will be on the ballot, and Scott Lee Cohen is trying to run as an independent. Whitney got 361,336 votes (10.4 percent of the votes cast) in 2006, primarily because Blagojevich and Topinka were such putrid choices. In fact, in a turnout of 3,487,989, Blagojevich got 1,736,731 votes (49.8 percent) -- less than a majority. He had 367,416 more votes than Topinka, but he topped the combined Topinka-Whitney vote by just 6,080 votes.

People had many Blagojevich-given reasons to vote against Topinka in 2006. To date there are no compelling reasons to vote against you. There may be some "negatives," but you are not yet a "flawed" candidate. If voters want to oust Quinn, a mark for Cohen or Whitney is a waste. You are the alternative. Your theme is simple: No tax hike. No capitulation to special interests. No toadyism to Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan. No one-party rule in Illinois.

Fifth, the state's budget problems are intractable. Selling off a portion of the tobacco settlement will net $1 billion, an increased cigarette tax $190 million, a tax amnesty $250 million to $500 million, new business taxes $490 million. The education budget's "hole" is $1.3 billion. The state needs $3.7 billion to fund pensions for fiscal year 2011, or it must suspend payments until 2011, necessitating the sale of assets to cover pension payments.

The game plan of the Democrats (and Mike Madigan) can be summarized thusly: Wait until after November. If Quinn wins, then raise the state income tax, pin the blame on Quinn, try to remap the Republicans into oblivion, and get ready to nominate Lisa Madigan for governor in 2014. If Brady wins, do nothing, let the new Republican governor institute draconian budget cuts, blame him for his "insensitivity," and tab him as "irresponsible" for failing to propose a "revenue enhancement" -- meaning a tax hike.

Be forewarned: If elected, you will be, as the old Dr. Seuss book depicts, the "Grinch that stole Christmas." If the Democrats maintain their legislative majorities, as is likely, they will eagerly tolerate your budget cuts. Every program slashed will accrue a multitude of Democratic votes in 2012.

Sixth, Quinn has the responsibility under the Emergency Budget Act to effectuate spending cuts. If the Democrats don't vote to raise taxes -- which they won't -- then Quinn has to cut spending, and every cut will enrage a core Democratic-voting constituency.

Some have suggested that you disappear to New Zealand for the remainder of the campaign. In other words, say nothing, do nothing. But that's not necessary. Given the state's current fiscal predicament, Quinn will self-destruct: He's for a tax hike, but he doesn't have the power to enact it, and he's against budget cuts, and he will refuse to implement them. Between now and November, state government will be wreathed in chaos. Quinn's inaction and vacillation is your ally.

Sixth, there is no "passion factor" for the Democrats. Saving Quinn's butt is not a huge priority among Democratic voters. In 2006 and 2008 the Democrats were motivated by anti-Bush hostility.

Statewide turnout was 3,538,891 in 2002 and 3,487,989 in 2006. Back in 1994, a huge Republican year, turnout was 3,106,566. The lower the turnout, the better your prospects. Democratic, liberal and minority voters, who were enthralled by Barack Obama in 2008 and who flocked to the polls, have negligible motivation to vote in 2010. Conversely, conservative and anti-tax enthusiasts are itching to vote.

The Democratic base vote in off-year elections is just under 2 million, the Republicans' base is around 1.5 million, and third-party candidates generate about 100,000 votes. In 1994 Netsch got only 1,069,850 votes. Quinn's support is squishy-soft, and any major fiscal crisis over the next 6 months will spell his doom.

Seventh, you need to focus your attention on the Collar Counties -- DuPage, Kane, Lake, Will and McHenry. If, as expected, Quinn comes out of Cook County up by 400,000 votes, you must carry your Downstate base by 225,000 votes and the Collar Counties by 200,000 votes. Topinka won the "Collars" by just 41,239 votes in 2006.

And lastly, you must remain adamant: No tax hike. Stay on that message. Eschew social issues. You're going to win by about 75,000 votes.