This year's only Illinois Supreme Court race is just about the hottest political thing going.

The Fifth District race pits appellate justice Gordon Maag (D-Glen Carbon) against trial judge Lloyd Karmeier (R-Nashville).

Up until last week the Statehouse had been one of the safest places in Illinois. No one had ever been killed there in its entire history. And then some unbalanced kid stops taking his meds and all hell breaks loose.

It's endorsement season in Illinois politics, a time of high anxiety for candidates who are already involved up to their eyeballs in stressful campaigns.

Missing out on a key interest-group endorsement can sometimes devastate a campaign.

As if Alan Keyes wasn't embarrassing enough, with his hours-long diatribes that say almost nothing of interest to anyone in Illinois except a handful of zealots. No. He's gotta go off and verbally slime the vice president's daughter.

A top advisor to an Illinois Supreme Court candidate who wants to end the lawsuit "crisis" has filed suit against two men who champion the rights of people who file lawsuits.

Enough irony for you? There's more.

It's probably not a good sign that at least two prominent speakers at the state fair's Republican Day event last week felt it was necessary to insist that the Illinois Republican Party is not dead.

Other speakers worked hard to reinforce the not-dead theme by helpfully pointing out several possible signs of life.

Word from on-high is that the national Senate Republicans are planning to contribute lots of money to Republican U.S. Senate candidate Alan Keyes.

It's not that the national poobahs actually believe Keyes can win, mind you.

I have a lot of respect for Illinois Senate Republican Leader Frank Watson, but I think he's gone off his rocker.

Watson strongly supports the candidacy of Alan Keyes for U.S. Senate in Illinois. One of his lieutenants, state Senator Dave Syverson (R-Rockford), was the guy who recruited Keyes in the first place, talked him up to the media, and then helped convince the GOP state central committee to offer the vacant Jack Ryan slot to him, over the objections of party chairperson Judy Baar Topinka.

No governor ever gets everything he wants in a budget. But this year's budget agreement reflects what appears to be the greatest expansion of legislative power in decades. Governor Rod Blagojevich had to give up a lot during the two-month overtime session, and he didn't get much in return.

It's been an opportunist playground," a top Republican Party official sighed last week.

Every time somebody floats his or her own name for the vacant slot for Republican U.S. Senate candidate and then "withdraws," the media paints it as yet another disaster for the state party, the clearly annoyed official complained.

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