Former GOP Legislator Tops Libertarian Ticket in Illinois Print
Commentary/Politics - National Politics
Tuesday, 13 August 2002 18:00
When the Illinois Libertarian Party asked Cal Skinner whether he’d run for governor on its ticket, he wondered what was in it for him. The answer was a political party that’s very good at collecting petition signatures, which fits right into Skinner’s plans.

Skinner, who served as a Republican in the Illinois House from 1972 to 1980 and from 1992 to 2000, is pushing for a constitutional amendment that would limit Illinois’ legislative leaders to terms of six years. But to get that on the 2004 ballot, Skinner needs 300,000 valid petition signatures. The Libertarian Party can help him get those when he launches a petition drive in November.

But it’s not just back-scratching that has Skinner heading the Libertarian ticket with taxpayer advocate Jim Tobin as his lieutenant-governor candidate. Skinner’s agenda dovetails nicely with that of the Libertarian Party. He’s anti-tax, supports allowing people who receive certain types of training to carry concealed weapons, favors raising the speed limit, and wants to turn tollways into freeways.

But his term-limit idea stems from frustration with the legislative process in Illinois. Power has grown increasingly concentrated at the top of the legislative hierarchy, and three of the leaders – House Democratic Leader Mike Madigan, House Republican Leader Lee Daniels, and Senate Republican Leader James “Pate” Philip – have been in their positions for more than 20 years. The fourth, Senate Democratic Leader Emil Jones, has held his post for more than 10 years.

“You ought to be able to make a good chunk in your policy agenda” in six years, Skinner said in an interview with the River Cities’ Reader. So he concludes that “these guys don’t want to give up power.” The political system in Illinois is so insular, Skinner said, “it’s really amazing the offices aren’t hereditary.”

Skinner hopes to raise at least $300,000 for his campaign. He doesn’t expect to have enough money to run ads on television, but he does plan an aggressive radio effort. Skinner will soon be launching a radio-ad campaign touting his plan to raise the speed limit from 55 to 65 on all two-lane state highways, and to 75 on interstate highways. The campaign will feature 2,000 spots in downstate Illinois.

Libertarians generally tend to be modest in their goals for elections. When he was asked to run, Skinner said, some members of the party told him why they liked him: “We think you can get 5 percent.”

But Skinner is aiming higher: “Some of the rest of us think that lightning could strike.” He expects that in a three-way race with Republican Jim Ryan (the current attorney general) and Democrat Rod Blagojevich (a U.S. representative), he has a chance of winning. Libertarians “appeal to voters who like limited government and really don’t like taxes,” he said. “At least a third of the electorate must feel that way.”

But that isn’t just a guess; Skinner has a sense of from where the votes might come, and he’s not just using a philosophical mantra of less government and more freedom. His first target is cigarette smokers, who saw the Illinois General Assembly raise taxes from 58 cents a pack to 98 cents a pack on July 1 to balance the budget. Because 26 percent of Illinois voters are smokers, Skinner said, he already has a potentially large core constituency. “Why would any cigarette smoker vote for a Republican or Democrat?” he asked. “Why should they be punished” for the state’s budget woes?

Skinner said he would veto nearly any tax increase, and that would include “user fees” that many politicians claim aren’t tax increases. Skinner said that any fee increase should only cover the cost of regulation: “Things that are regulated ought to pay their own way,” he said. Anything beyond that is a tax increase, he said. The only tax increase Skinner would consider signing, he said, would be one on casino profits.

Instead of raising taxes, Skinner said, legislators should have instituted budget cuts. And if the legislature wasn’t willing to do it, the state’s chief executive should have. “The governor has awesome budget power,” he said, noting that the governor has full-veto, line-item-veto, and reduction-veto powers. Neither major party in Illinois can claim that it’s held taxes down, he added. “Every Republican governor has raised taxes in Illinois going back to the ’50s,” he said.

Skinner also supports a Personal Security Act that would allow people to carry concealed weapons. He cites research in the book More Guns, Less Crime by Dr. R. John Lott Jr. that claims states with concealed-carry laws see permanent decreases in violent crime. “It’s the best social science I’ve ever read,” Skinner said.

While 5 percent isn’t his ultimate goal, it is a short-term goal. Skinner has been promised by the League of Women Voters that if he receives more than 5 percent in any independent poll, he’ll be invited to participate in debates with Ryan and Blagojevich. That provides urgency to his upcoming media campaign. “We’re trying to get our name recognition up,” he said.

For more information on the Skinner campaign, visit (
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