Saturday, March 06, 2010

Brady needs to do his homework

Brady needs to do his homework
Copyright by The Chicago Sun-Times Columnist
March 6, 2010,CST-EDT-carol07.article

Been a bit bumpy for Bill Brady lately. But he is finally the official gubernatorial nominee of the Illinois GOP, now that the state Board of Elections has determined he won by a tiny but decisive 193 votes.

And so, after a kickoff Friday at the Union League Club, he headed out at rush hour to meet and greet Metra commuters.

His campaign billed it as "Sen. Brady thanks Chicago voters," but it was a little hard to imagine what exactly he was thanking them for. He got only 1,800 votes out of 34,000 Republican votes cast in the city.

Or to put it another way, his Chicago voters could barely fill the right-field bleachers at Wrigley. And in Cook County, 90 percent of the Republican vote went to his five opponents, not him.

Sen. Brady, of Bloomington, neither has a mandate nor has he done much to win new converts since the February primary.

Worse, he has given his detractors an opening the size of Soldier Field to go after him.

For starters, he's had to fend off inflammatory accusations that he's a homophobic puppy killer.

That's the result of legislation he sponsored (and has subsequently un-sponsored) permitting mass euthanasia of shelter animals, opposing same sex marriage and civil unions and advocating the weakening of some gay discrimination restrictions.

Worse is how he stumbled by panic-peddling a story last week on early prisoner release that lacked foundation in fact.

Designed as an attack on Gov. Quinn, something Quinn's Democratic opponent Dan Hynes did masterfully in the primary, Brady blundered.

The released prisoner in question is 21-year-old Jonathan Phillips, who has recently been charged with a new crime -- murder. The fact is that Phillips, a convicted carjacker, was by all accounts -- except Brady's -- released back in November within established guidelines and -- here's the important point -- not because of Quinn's two controversial, discontinued prisoner release programs.

At a press conference in Springfield, Brady was flanked by Senate and House Republican leaders Christine Radogno and Tom Cross.

It had the feel of one of those "Saturday Night Live" congressional skits where the characters playing Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden look like they'd rather be undergoing dental surgery.

Brady's defenders contend reporters were out to sandbag their guy. And that news accounts overlooked or de-emphasized what Brady was really there to talk about: his bill requiring the state to post information and photos of all early release inmates. The legislation is headed to a vote before the full Senate.

What Brady did not seem to know until reporters told him was that the Illinois Department of Corrections had already begun posting early release inmates on its Web site.

(Note to Brady: preparation, preparation, preparation.)

There is no question, however, that the long knives are out.

Just as Pat Quinn, the accidental, novice governor, stumbled and fumbled on issues -- including early release -- after taking office a year ago, Brady is hitting his own learning curve.

Make this a teachable moment, therefore.

The tanked economy, the state budget crisis and the roadkill specter of Rod Blagojevich on trial will certainly aid the Republican quest to regain the governor's mansion.

But it's no slam-dunk.

Brady won his primary victory Downstate, where Democrat Dan Hynes also did far better than Quinn. But Brady's challenge is in Cook and the collar counties, where more than half of the votes will come. And where Republican governors in years past have occupied the moderate center, not the conservative right.

Brady may upend the conventional wisdom.

But he's going to have to do better in dodging the minefield of his own creation.


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