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Opinion | Mendoza's decision to run for mayor puts state in bad spot

Opinion | Mendoza's decision to run for mayor puts state in bad spot

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The following editorial represents the collective opinion of editorial boards of the following papers owned by Lee Enterprises: The Southern Illinoisan, Carbondale; The Pantagraph, Bloomington; Herald & Review, Decatur; and Journal-Gazette & Times-Courier, Mattoon.

We all knew she was running for Chicago mayor. She refused to rule out a run. And then came that leaked clip of Democratic Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza in early November.

“I’m Susana Mendoza, and I’m running for mayor of Chicago, and I ask you to join me on this journey together,” Mendoza says.


Mendoza at the same time was on the ballot for re-election as comptroller. She ending up winning that race, only to say about a week later she would be, in fact, running for Chicago mayor.

A cynic would say this was vintage Illinois politics — a two-track way to have it both ways and hop jobs. But this also speaks to a bigger issue that's alarming about our election process and what people in power expect to get away with.

The comptroller gig is not insignificant in our government hierarchy, and far from a cushy position. The person is essentially the state's top fiscal officer, in charge of payments and fees.

Mendoza took important steps to make the Comptroller's Office into an aggressive watchdog and guardian of public money. She has also carved a niche as one of the more blunt and dogged figures in Illinois politics, clashing frequently and passionately with GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner during the budget impasse. It was fun to watch.

Then there's the video that surfaced this summer of her confronting a motorist who rear-ended a vehicle in Chicago. Mendoza was on a bike ride. She recorded the driver, who in a bizarre Chicago twist was a Daley administration crony named John "Quarters" Boyle. (You can't make this stuff up.)

We like Mendoza and her approach. But we don't like being double crossed.

It's not a good look.

Sure, some of this is timing. The announcement that Mayor Rahm Emanuel, under sharp pressure for increased gun violence, wasn't seeking a third term touched off a blitzkrieg of candidates entering the fray. There are about a dozen now, including heavyweights Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Bill Daley, son of one Chicago mayor and brother to another. Mendoza is the former Chicago clerk, so she's right there in the middle. The primary is in February.

Some of this is just being opportunistic. We get that, too. Mendoza has every right to run.

Our issue is that if she wins, it means incoming Gov. J.B. Pritzker gets to appoint someone, cutting voters out of the process. That's not good.

And until then, Mendoza's focus will not be on Southern Illinois, Decatur, Bloomington or Mattoon, but on crime in East Garfield Park, red-light cameras and whether a casino at O'Hare is logical.

That's not a democratic process we should favor. It can't work that way, and some states, like Florida, have "resign to run" rules for this kind of issue.

Our message: Illinois is in too precarious a position to have an absent officeholder. Once again, Chicago benefits from the rest of the state.

We deserve better.


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