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Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2006 01:18 pm

Juxtaposition

Whitney's participation could be a boon for Blago downstate

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With less than eight weeks to go before the November general election, Green Party gubernatorial long shot Rich Whitney has 6 percent support among likely voters, a Chicago Tribune/WGN-TV poll released Monday finds.

Most third-party candidates pray to get 5 percent on Election Day, and it wasn’t long ago that Whitney was an afterthought, relegated to the final paragraph of newspaper articles.

In some ways, then, he’s ahead of the game, which explains why Illinois Democrats want to put Whitney out of commission. In July, two men, reportedly Democratic Party operatives, filed objections with the Illinois State Board of Elections, hoping to disqualify the Greens’ voter petitions.

Whitney’s showing in the Tribune survey, the Capitol Fax reported on Tuesday, was good enough to garner the Carbondale attorney an invitation to participate in a southern-Illinois gubernatorial debate scheduled for later this month, but Gov. Rod Blagojevich may threaten to boycott the debate if Whitney is allowed to take part.

Although conventional wisdom suggests that the Green Party, which ran Ralph Nader for president twice, will likely siphon off more votes from Blagojevich than from Republican nominee Judy Baar Topinka, Whitney’s presence could work to the governor’s advantage in that part of the state.

According to the Tribune poll, Topinka and Blagojevich are statistically neck and neck among downstate and independent voters, one-fifth of whom remain undecided, and, thanks in no small part to some pretty effective attack ads, the momentum right now appears to be on the side of incumbent Blagojevich.

The major-party candidates agree on social issues such as abortion and gay rights and have their work cut out for them in terms of winning over voters in traditionally more conservative parts of the state, such as southern Illinois.

Appearing onstage alongside Whitney might be one way for both Blagojevich and Topinka to accomplish this, but the move should help the governor more in the end.

Whitney has called the Iraq war “plainly illegal and immoral” and mocked a proposed constitutional amendment to prohibit gay marriage by calling for a ban on marriages between government
and corporations.

Although Blagojevich and Topinka both oppose the legalization of same-sex marriages, neither has taken a public stance on Iraq. As a congressman, however, Blagojevich cast a vote supporting the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

This summer, the World Shooting and Recreational Complex — a project Blagojevich championed, despite his also pressing for a ban on assault rifles — opened in Sparta.

If Blagojevich bucks convention and allows Whitney in the debates, it’s possible that the governor will come off looking more like a centrist to undecided voters in some of the redder parts of Illinois.

Contact R.L. Nave at rnave@illinoistimes.com

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