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Let's say good-bye to Scott Lee Cohen; now, Tom Castillo - that's the ticket!

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Maybe Scott Lee Cohen didn’t get around to reading my Friday column ('Cohen will quit ticket under Dem pressure') until Sunday afternoon.

Or, maybe he just wanted to piss-off all those political reporters who have been making his life so unpleasant over the last five days – by dragging them away from their giant-screen TVs during the Super Bowl.

Whatever the reason, Scott Lee Cohen – the man who would be lt. governor – stood before a microphone and a room-full of those reporters Sunday evening and did the right thing. He resigned as the duly-elected nominee of the Democrtatic Party – an election that cost him a reported $2 million of his own money, and a year of hard campaigning, by a virtual unknown, in a hotly contested race.

"For the good of the people …I will resign,” a tearful Scott Lee Cohen announced Sunday at a North Side neighborhood tavern, filled with patrons watching the football game. “The last thing I ever, ever wanted to do,” he said, “was to put the people of Illinois in jeopardy in any way.”

If you believe the man – and I do – than, whatever the allegations against him… whatever the record may show… in his heart Scott Lee Cohen is not a bad person. He quit because, at least at some level, he is a good person, wanting to do the right thing for his political party and his state.

Now all eyes turn to the cumbersome process of filling Cohen’s number two spot on the state ballot. The replacement must not only be a good person (a little better vetting this time around, please, gentlemen), but also a person who will add some pizzaz to the ticket headed by the dull, though likeable, incumbent. Who will Democratic Party powerbrokers pick to run in tandem with Gov. Pat Quinn?

A easier question to answer is: Who will not be picked?

Some suggest Dan Hynes, the three-term Illinois comptroller who was narrowly defeated by Quinn in last week’s gubernatorial primary election. Not a chance. Too much residual animosity here. Shaking hands and making kissy-face right after a bitter election campaign is one thing. Trying to make a team of rivals is not an option.

Others say the obvious choice here is the man who came in second in the election for the LG nomination, State Sen. Arthur Turner. Please see above paragraph. Turner never openly campaigned for Hynes -- may have never even said he supported him in public -- but sources tell me that Turner was hoping for a Hynes-Turner victory on Feb. 2.

I suggest party leaders retire to their smoke-free room in Springfield this week and take a good, hard look at an also-ran who made a surprisingly good showing in the lt. governor primary.

Like Cohen, a political unknown, Thomas Castillo got an early start in the campaign (I first met him working the room at a reception last May). Like Cohen, Thomas Castillo ran on a platform of bringing jobs back to Illinois and bringing common sense back to state government. Unlike Cohen, Thomas Castillo has no money of his own and had a damned hard time raising cash on the campaign trail.

Taking a page from Barack Obama’s campaign manual, however, Castillo managed to organize (what could be a state record number of) more than 5,400 fans, supporters, friends and campaign workers on the internet site “Facebook” alone – plus thousands more through his videos on YouTube and his campaign pages on My Space and other social networks.

Don’t laugh. With a little help from his internet friends – and not much more – this 34-year-old, unemployed, union electrical worker, from DuPage County, did himself proud on Feb. 2.

Thomas Castillo soundly defeated a popular 4-term state senator and virtually tied two other well-known state legislators. Only Cohen and Turner put any space worth mentioning between themselves and Castillo in the contest for the nomination. (Click here for the vote tally.)

Let’s just imagine for a moment what a candidate like Tom Castillo could do for the whole Democratic ticket, if he had the benefit of a little paid advertising and a lot of party support...

Just imagine...

And another thing...

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