Lieutenant Governor Candidate Selection Process Attracts the “Best of the Best” Candidates

by , posted on Monday, March 22nd, 2010 at 9:21 am

On Saturday, March 20th, I took careful notes while attending one of the six public forums used to select a Democratic Lieutenant Governor.  I was at the Bolingbrook location, where 20 of the 40 anticipated applicants showed up to audition.

As a political activist and candidate, I have been to literally hundreds of coffees, fundraisers, rallies, press conferences and political events as part of the grueling process of running for public office.  Based on this experience, I think I can state with some authority that the first-round selection process used to vet potential candidates to be Governor Quinn’s running mate brought out the best candidates I have ever seen in a room full of people seeking public office. 

The number one take-away from Saturday’s experience was that this process clearly brought forward the best of the best.  I have often said that there are two kinds of people in politics; those who want power and those who want to serve.  The two brands of politicians are easily identifiable in any room and rarely have I been in a room where 95% of the applicants came from the “public service wing” of the party.  While listening to candidate after candidate put forward his or her resume and ideas, I was reminded of the old adage, “the best people to hold office never run or never make it.” 

Potential candidate after potential candidate praised past Democratic Party leaders from Kennedy to Obama and worshiped the golden years when the party stood for something.  The frequent Kennedy references and quotes captured the average age of the candidates – most were 50-something.  Perhaps when given an opportunity to serve, many more people would answer Kennedy’s call to “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

From Blagojevich’s arrest to the purchase of numerous congressional and senate seats here in Illinois and across the nation, it is clear that our current political process is broken.  Something about this process of selecting a Lt. Governor somehow restored my belief that the broken system can be fixed.

There is no doubt that we are transitioning into a political era that demands more public servants to step forward to replace the majority of power-seekers and power brokers in our political system.  Before spinning off into a diatribe about the origins of political power that originates from the people, I want to hit home one point.

The political process used to vet candidates for Lt. Governor, in a very public manner, through public forums like the one held today might be a better process than the one currently used to test “electability and fundraising prowess.”

This experience has taught me that finding the best of the best, means that we have to find a way to strip away the fundraising pressures and find a way to curb the endless series of meetings and events that suck the life out of candidates with a relentless, dusk-till-dawn, 24-7 schedule.

My wife, Jennifer Laesch, is one of the 38 people who will vote for the next Lt. Governor nominee.  This means that I get sporadic updates as to how the selection process is moving forward.  At this point in time, I have to admit that I am fairly impressed with the open process and very impressed with the caliber of candidates, but the politically cynical side of me still thinks that a more-closed-door process might be in play.

The selection committee heard from about 20 candidates representing diverse backgrounds and resumes.  Some read carefully scripted notes.  Others told passionate stories and spoke from the heart about their life’s experiences and a few made their political debut by literally dancing around the microphone – all of them wanted to be public servants. 

A carpenter from Oswego, a decorated veteran from Galesburg, a teacher from Ogle County, a union president from Aurora, a Trustee from Channahon, and a teacher from Kankakee all made positive impressions.  At the end of the day, the State Central Committeemen, Kyle Hastings and the two State Central Committeewomen, Julie Beckman-Kennedy and Lynn Foster, chose the strongest two candidates.  Iraq War veteran, Dirk Enger, and former Palos Heights Mayor, Dean Koldenhoven, were chosen to advance to the next round in the selection process.

If the committee was looking for some political experience, the fact that Enger had won a Republican seat in staunchly Republican DuPage County was a testament to his ability to win swing votes with a middle-class message.  Perhaps Mayor Koldenhoven had also proven his ability to win a Republican area, but I didn’t record that in my notes and I don’t know enough about the race.

If the committee was looking for a strong resume, Enger’s time in Iraq and his work for the Midwest Shelter for Homeless Veterans may have captured their attention, but it is more likely that they were looking at his union affiliation as a way to re-unite the Democratic Party after Dan Hynes wasted millions of union dollars challenging Governor Quinn in the primary election.  Koldenhoven’s resume also features extensive public service with some business experience.  I have yet to investigate if his previous company, Koldenhoven Construction, was union or not.

I snapped a photo of the two before parting ways.


This weekend, the Illinois Democratic Party whittled the 200-person field down to 17 candidates.  From here, these 17 candidates will have to respond to a 45 question survey and go through an extended interview process next Saturday, March 27th, beginning 8:30 a.m.  The next vetting process will be held at The Inn, located at 835 South 2nd St., in Springfield IL.  I hope  anyone who reads this blog chooses to attend – the event is open to the public.

Most Democratic activists would have walked away from today’s experience saying, “I hope they all line up behind the nominee.”  I walked away from today’s experience thinking, “I hope all of these people run for another public office and win.”  There is no doubt that Illinois and the nation are both facing a leadership deficit in a political system tainted by money and dominated by the wealth and powerful.


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One Response to “Lieutenant Governor Candidate Selection Process Attracts the “Best of the Best” Candidates”

  1. […] might be slightly different from others, so, I decided to pen my own version.  I covered the initial candidate selection process last […]

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