By Frank James
Illinois politics are rarely boring. Which is unfortunate since the excitement in the state's political culture often comes from the announcement of a new indictment of one politician or another, or the unfolding of a scandal.
Thursday brought both. Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich was indicted anew by a federal grand jury at the urging of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. The prosecutor was seeking to avoid any problems for his case that could arise from the U.S. Supreme Court's consideration of the constitutionality of public servants being prosecuted for depriving their constituents of their "honest services."
So Fitzgerald brought new charges that avoided the "honest services" charge. Instead the new indictment had counts that included racketeering, bribery and attempted extortion.
Meanwhile, the race for Illinois lieutenant governor was affected by a Democratic candidate, Scott Lee Cohen, with a past of domestic violence which rightly had Democrats worried about blowback in the form of Republican gains if they couldn't somehow convince him to voluntarily exit the race.
Scott Lee Cohen vowed to stay in the race for lieutenant governor today, saying he has shown honesty and courage that will bolster the Democratic Party's chances in November.
Acknowledging that he behaved badly while taking anabolic steroids in 2005 when his marriage broke up, Cohen said he understands why his past has caused a firestorm within the party. As of Thursday evening no other politicians had contacted him to ask him to step down, he said.
If they do, he won't.
"I'm going to respond that my honesty and integrity in putting it out there is the best thing that could happen to the party," Cohen said in an interview with the Tribune, part of an effort to respond to growing calls among Democrats that he step aside and not risk dragging down Gov. Pat Quinn, his running mate in the general election.
Cohen did not deny choking his wife, as she alleged in the divorce, but said he had no recollection of it, and it actually took place before they were married.
His ex-wife, Debra York-Cohen, was with him today and said she stood by the allegations in the divorce but said his philandering and volatile behavior took place during a brief period time when he was using steroids. The allegations included him frightening their four children and threatening her verbally and physically.