EDITORIAL: Serious choices for the 71st

From the Quad-City Times Editorial Board

U.S. Rep. Mike Boland made his lieutenant governor aspirations official this week, and we wish him luck. Boland has been eyeing the spot since at least 2001 and faces a tough challenge.

His exit has drawn four strong candidates who can offer voters in Illinois 71st House District a rare chance to shake up the status quo in Springfield.

For 15 years, Boland won re-election with thorough constituent services and few serious GOP challengers. A fractured Democratic county party never fully supported him, but couldn’t muster a serious challenge.

In four of his last eight elections, Boland was unopposed in the Democratic primary. With his district dominated so heavily by Democrats in Rock Island County, that usually has meant automatic re-election, regardless of the Republican on the ballot.

This year, voters can choose from among:

— Dennis Ahern, a party activist and 2008 Obama delegate to the Democratic National Convention. Ahern challenged Boland in the 2004 primary.

— Jerry Lack, a former legislative aide to Lane Evans who challenged Boland in the 2008 primary.

— Porter McNeil, a long-time Democratic activist and Obama campaign staffer.

On the general election ballot will be Republican Rock Island County Board member Richard Morthland.

We eagerly anticipate a campaign that can produce a leader capable of challenging a system that seems to produce followers.

Illinois’ top Democratic officials have been unable to lead, opting instead to defer, delay and bicker in the wake of their party’s gubernatorial disaster.

Boland attempted to distance himself from this scrum, but turned to major party funding when a serious challenge emerged. He used an unprecedented $764,000 in party contributions from House Speaker Mike Madigan to fend off Republican Steve Haring in 2006.

We look for Boland’s successor – Democrat or Republican – to establish himself as independent from the machines – Democrat and Republican – that have broken federal laws, mired the state in debt and anchored Illinois with a comically corrupt reputation.

We welcome these candidates and look forward to a different kind of campaign that offers voters hope of real change in Springfield.

Boland’s lock on the 71st

1994: Mike Boland defeats Wayne Neal, Green Rock Mayor Terry Van Klavern and Marlys Vermeire in the primary. Boland beats Republican Deb Toppert in the November general election.

1996: Boland beats Rock Island County Clerk Dick Leibovitz in the primary and Rock Island County Board member Phil Banaszek in the general election.

1998: Boland wins unopposed in the primary and general elections.

2000: Boland wins unopposed in the primary and general elections.

2002: Boland wins unopposed in the primary and defeats Cary M. Mirocha in the general election.

2004: Boland beats Dennis Ahern in the primary and Steve Haring in the general election.

2006: Boland is unopposed in primary and defeats Steve Haring in the general election.

2008: Boland defeats Jerry Lack in the primary and Lawrence Bruckner in the general election.