>REACT: My bet? Edgar takes a pass on the run for governor

>The burning question in Illinois politics is who is the next jail bound official. Oooops! That is not the burning issue at the moment. The issue de jour is the awaited decision by former Governor Jim Edgar as to whether he will make a comeback to take on Democrat Governor Rod Blagojevich.

I can only see one factor that makes a run tempting for Edgar. He could sit smugly in Springfield as his political nemesis in Chicago, Mayor Rich Daley, is twisting in the winds of scandal and controversy. There is no question, they do not like each other. I know that from personal experience (a story for another time). But ambition based on negative motivation is never a good idea, and especially true in this case.

My own guess is a big fat “no,” but only after Edgar milks the publicity for all it is worth. This is not uncommon. The late Governor Dick Ogilvie used to encourage speculation about a mayoral run every four years. He would never say “no” until the last moment — and I was never wrong predicting his final “regrets” despite hints to the contrary from “reliable sources.”

You have to understand that the Jim Edgars and Dick Ogilvies of the world are afflicted with very large egos — as are most successful politicians. When out of office, they suffer from “the phone doesn’t ring much anymore.” They miss the daily press inquiries soliciting their opinion on everything from Iraq to West Niles Disease. And of course, the perks of office.

Every so often, these retirees have an opportunity to re-enter the speculation game. The phone starts to ring, and their thoughts are again grist for the media mill. For the most part, however, the post-office life is too comfortable, financially rewarding and with just enough publicly narcotic to asuage withdrawal symptoms.

That is the general case. Then there are the specific Edgar issues.

First and foremost, he left office with a much better reputation and legacy than he every deserved. He can do nothing but harm his lingering public image with another residency in the executive mansion.

He came to the governorship at much better times. The state was in better financial condition, and the issues were not as controversial or confrontational. In addition, he had a mostly supportive GOP controlled legislature.

Edgar has never been one to rise to a tough challenge. He was tapped for the Secretary of State office by his powerful friend and mentor, former Governor Jim Thompson. His road to the first gubernatorial nomination was paved by party bosses, including Thompson (much to the chagrin of indicted former Governor George Ryan.) This time Edgar would face a strong incumbent in a state that has tilted to the point of collapse to the Democrat party. He may even trigger a primary fight. Though an odds on winner in a primary, a bull dog right winger could bruise Edgar pretty badly.

Of course, not much has been said recently about the opinion of Brenda Edgar, who was reported to have loomed large in the decision to retire. Part of that was due to Edgar’s heart condition — still a consideration. Despite the calm exterior, he is reported to be a stress-prone guy.

In his two terms, all the prosecutors were politician friendly. Sure there was an indictment here and there — usually guys out of favor with the GOP/DEM central power structure. These cases provided an appearance of independence, oversight and reform. Now Edgar would face a truly aggressive and independent U.S. Attorney.

Why should Edgar care? Because … swept under the good publicity carpet of Edgar’s incumbency are a number of troublesome issues. Despite the carefully burnished choir boy image were a number or ethical “irregularities.” The influence of the mobbed up New Republicans in his administration and a questionable $100,000 donation about which Edgar claimed to know nothing — even as he dined privately with the donors. His political intimates include recently indicted insiders John Glennon and Stuart Levine, the already convicted Don Udsten, and the unindicted, albeit infamous, Cellini clan.

In addition, Edgar would have to dip into the campaign fund he made off with. He has more than $1 million in unspent campaign contributions as a sort of retirement annuity for his personal benefit. Raising money would not be as easy this time since hs is not a shoo-in, and he could wind up liquidating that slush fund.

Another run would rewrite the closing act of his political career. Maybe from a “last hurrah” to a humiliating defeat. Or, if elected, from a popular governor to a failed chief executive. Perhaps he would wind up presiding over the indictment of friends and allies, wonder of his own fate.

Edgar would be a fool to run, so what could overcome all the negatives and make him decide to go for it. Oh yeah! That enormous political ego. THAT could trump good judgment and common sense any time.

I still say to those contemplating a run for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, do not pause for a second. Run like there is no Edgar.

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