I'm not a fan of Alexi Giannoulias. In February, after he beat David Hoffman in the democratic primary for Senate, I was determined to cast my ballot for Mark Kirk. I was ready to get a Mark Kirk bumper sticker and put it on my car. I was ready to go door to door singing the praises of Mark Kirk. I was ready to shake hands like I was Congressman Kirk: "Hello, nice to meet you, did you know Mark Kirk is running for senate and he's the only quality candidate running for the position in Illinois?"
Good thing I didn't vote in February because now, 19 days out from the election, I have no clue where my vote will go for United States Senate.
Alexi Giannoulias has never impressed me. I have written critical posts about him for over a year. Alexi is in the position he is in because he played basketball with Barack Obama. Period.
Would Alexi Giannoulias be our treasurer had Blair Hull not allegedly abused his ex-wife? If you remember the democratic primary from 2004, Blair Hull had name recognition, "invested" $28 million of his own money to fund (buy?) the election, and enjoyed a substantial lead in the polls. Then the allegations came out from divorce proceedings that he abused his ex-wife and his substantial lead in the polls plummeted. Little known Barack Obama became the democratic nominee.
As Obama's luck would have it, the Chicago Tribune sued Jack Ryan, Obama's Republican opponent, to get Ryan's sealed divorce file opened to the public. When the Tribune won its suit, allegations of Jack Ryan's sexual appetite- he liked to take his wife, actress Jeri Ryan to sex clubs around the world- came to light. After pressure from the Illinois GOP, Ryan was forced out of the race. Obama garnered 70% of the vote that fall after the Illinois GOP brought in carpetbagger Alan Keyes to run against Obama.
While all this was happening, Alexi was playing basketball with Barack Obama. Then, at age 30, Alexi decided it was time to run for treasurer of the state of Illinois. With the blessing, endorsement, and assistance of Barack Obama, Alexi Giannoulias was elected treasurer in 2006.
Alexi Giannoulias' rise is proof that America is not a meritocracy. When he was elected treasurer, Alexi's professional resume included playing basketball in Greece and being vice president of family owned Broadway Bank.
Notice how Giannoulias is not running on his experience with Broadway Bank anymore? That wasn't true before the bank failed. Back in September 2009, Mr. Giannoulias's state treasurer's website touted the following accomplishments:
At the age of 30, Alexi Giannoulias became the youngest State Treasurer in the nation when he was elected to office on November 7, 2006.
A former community banker, Giannoulias uses his financial expertise and business acumen to employ innovative investment strategies to get a better rate of return on the 17 billion in taxpayer dollars that his office is responsible for investing on a daily basis.
Shortly after taking office, Giannoulias overhauled the state's Bright Start College Savings Program, allowing families to earn more money for their children's college tuition.
Giannoulias announced changes to Bright Start that will make it one of the most competitive tax-exempt college tuition programs in the nation with better performing funds and lower costs so more children can earn a college degree.
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Prior to taking office, Giannoulias served as vice president and senior loan officer at Broadway Bank in Chicago's Edgewater community. Crain's Chicago business rated Broadway the No. 1 Bank in Illinois for five years based on return on assets.
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In endorsing Giannoulias as an independent Democrat, the Chicago Sun-Times wrote, "We believe Giannoulias' banking experience will help him bring creative money management ideas to the treasurer's office." The Daily Herald endorsed Giannoulias' primary bid on his "strength of banking and investment expertise suited to the office."
Funny what a difference a year makes. At age 34, Giannoulias has distanced himself from the only professional experience he has. And his biggest accomplishment as Illinois treasurer was the Bright Start college savings program. Bright Start lost Illinois families saving for college tuition roughly $150 million in 2008.
These are Alexi Giannoulias two accomplishments: A failed family bank and losing $150 million with Bright Start.
Then why the hell am I still considering voting for him?
My wife said to me the other day that with both Kirk and Giannoulias being equally repugnant, she would vote for Giannoulias because she supports President Obama and supporting Giannoulias would be supporting Obama.
I shook my head, thinking that the better candidate should be the person winning your vote. The election of Mark Kirk (or any candidate) to the United States Senate should not be a referendum on Barack Obama, but rather a reflection of who is the better candidate. Clearly, Mark Kirk is the better candidate.
Then why am I still wavering?
Kirk has his own issues, namely he has had difficulty telling the truth about his resume. We know he completely embellished his military record on his campaign website. Embellishments- not mere mistakes. He knew he did not receive the Military Officer of the Year Award as claimed, but rather that his entire division won the award. When I heard that one, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. I allowed him that one embellishment. Then I learned his statement that "the last time I was in Iraq, I was in uniform flying at 20,000 feet and the Iraqi Air Defense Network was shooting at us" was "misremembered." Misremembered? Misremember something with the IRS and let me know how that works out.
One candidate has resume embellishments while the other doesn't have a resume. I suppose the one who embellishes his resume should probably win considering the other guy doesn't have anything to embellish.
Then why am I conflicted?
My conflict is less about the candidates than their parties. I don't like the way the Republican party has treated the President of the United States the last two years. One can disagree with policy without heckling the President during a speech to Congress. You can disagree with the President and be constructive about it. During a financial crisis effecting the vast majority of Americans, disagreeing with the President is one thing, but sitting on the sidelines hoping the President- and therefore the country- fails shows me how much you care about country. If country is truly first- then work with whomever is in the White House, especially during a crisis, rather than sitting it out hoping for failure so you can point fingers come the next election. If hoping the country fails to score political points is how you lead, you shouldn't be leading.
I'm conflicted because in my mind Mark Kirk is a better candidate, but I can't condone what the national GOP has done over the last two years. To me, a vote for Kirk is a vote for all the negativity, fear and outright lies (remember death panels?) coming from the national GOP the last two years. The national party has moved itself to the right leaving little room for moderates who cross the aisle wanting to get work done.
And the irony is that Mark Kirk is a moderate Republican. He's regularly called a RINO- a "Republican in name only." Mark Kirk is the candidate I'd vote for, but his national party has turned me off so much, that my political instincts are starting to assert themselves.
Giannoulias is looking more attractive. And he's not only starting to become more attractive to me, but to other Illinoisans too. According to Real Clear Politics the polls are starting to break for Giannoulias. But the race is still far too close to call. I just wonder whether independents and so-called Reagan democrats might shift back to Giannoulias given the chicanery the minority party has used the last two years. We'll know in less than three weeks.
Early voting is open: GO VOTE. Otherwise, 18 days until Election Day.