Slusher: Series lets candidates for governor introduce themselves

For a state whose many problems often appear all but unsolvable, Illinois certainly has no shortage of people willing to take on the challenge. Eight men and one woman already have announced they want to be the state's next governor, with a week and half still to go before they can even file petitions.

They range from the well-known Republican from Winnetka who has been wrestling with the job for the past four years to an unfamiliar Democrat from tiny downstate Marine whose political experience has been in serving as regional superintendent of schools for a county near St. Louis. They include a Republican from Wheaton who wants to challenge the leader of her party and a Democrat from Burr Ridge who wants to divide Illinois into four separate states.

They are seven Democrats and two Republicans in all, and, with the primary election closer than you might think, it's time to start getting to know them. March 20 will be here before you know it, and in a race that features two billionaires and a multimillionare and is forecast to be one of the most expensive campaigns in Illinois history, it is not going to be easy to sort among the people who claim to be able to fix Illinois' political and economic mess. So, we've started trying to get your attention. We began with a forum we hosted together with ABC7 Chicago in Mount Prospect a month ago, featuring six of the seven candidates for the Democratic nomination. This week, we launched a series of columns, giving the candidates an opportunity to introduce themselves and their platforms to you in their own words.

We invited the candidates to produce the essays just after the October forum, and we gave them all the same deadline date and length parameters. We told them the theme should be "Why I Should Be Illinois' Next Governor," and stressed that we wanted them to focus on their individual strengths and qualifications rather than the weaknesses and shortcomings of any of their opponents. We started the series on Tuesday with Gov. Bruce Rauner's column and followed on Wednesday with that of his Republican challenger, Jeanne Ives, a state representative from Wheaton. State Sen. Daniel Biss, of Evanston, starts off the series for the Democrats today. We'll follow in succession with Robert Daiber, a regional superintendent of schools from Madison County; Chris Kennedy, the co-founder and chairman of Top Box Foods and longtime director of the Merchandise Mart in Chicago; Robert Marshall, a physician from Burr Ridge; Alexander Paterakis, a small business owner from Vernon Hills and J.B. Pritzker, co-founder and managing partner of the Pritzker Group. Tio Hardiman, an activist from Chicago, chose not to participate.

We don't expect you'll make your election decision solely on the basis of these columns, of course. But we do want to get you started thinking seriously about the circumstances facing the state and the leadership approach needed to address them. We see the series as a foundation for you, an introduction that may help you get a real sense of the candidates' personalities and identify which ones you want to watch more closely. We hope you'll find it a useful start toward determining which of the nine undaunted contenders is really up to the task of leading Illinois' troubled and often unruly state government.

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