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posted: 3/19/2010 12:01 AM

Democrats put Lt Gov candidates under microscope

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SPRINGFIELD - Steroid users need not apply.

In what could possibly produce the most well vetted candidate in Illinois political history, Democratic leaders are asking prospective nominees for lieutenant governor to fill out an 11-page questionnaire that covers an array of topics, asking applicants to detail traffic tickets, real estate tax exemptions, code violations and if they've ever used performance-enhancing drugs.

Applicants are asked to name spouses and where they work and whether anyone in their family is a lobbyist and if so whom they lobbied and when. Sitting lawmakers are told to list everyone who's ever received a legislative scholarship and whether the recipient's family ever donated or volunteered for their campaigns. A total of 45 questions cover personal, professional, political and legal issues. Interviews begin Saturday in sites across the state, including local sessions in Schaumburg and Hoffman Estates. The state Democratic Party's central committee meets March 27 in Springfield to pick a winner.

Although the questionnaire notes completed forms will be posted on the party Web site, a spokesman doubted that would occur and said they are more advisory than mandatory. Party spokesman Steve Brown said the document is one House Democrats previously used with potential candidates.

"It's been a useful tool to give to applicants in terms of issues that might come up and how they wish to proceed," said Brown.

This process and the heightened scrutiny are the fallout from Scott Lee Cohen's aborted nomination. The Chicago pawnbroker outspent a wide field of candidates, ran catchy adds about job creation and stunned the political establishment by handily winning the Democratic nomination to be Gov. Pat Quinn's running mate.

Almost immediately stories emerged of Cohen's troubled past, including his arrest on allegations he held a knife to the throat of an ex-girlfriend who was later arrested on a prostitution charge. Cohen denied the allegations, and charges stemming from his arrest were dropped when the girlfriend didn't show up in court.

Then came salacious allegations of steroid abuse and domestic violence from his divorce file along with claims of failing to pay child support.

Just days after winning the nomination, Cohen told a crowded bar on Super Bowl Sunday that he'd give it up.

Among the questions hopefuls now face is whether they are divorced, where it was filed and on what grounds it was granted. The divorce question includes this provision: "Do you believe anything could be found in your divorce papers that would disqualify you in the minds of voters from being on the ticket?"

Under current state law, picking Cohen's replacement falls to the party's central committee. Gov. Quinn, however, has recently said he believes he will have the primary say in who gets the nomination even though he's not a member of that committee.