Now that the state's political season is about to kick into a slightly higher gear, let's take a moment to look at how some of the Republican candidates for governor are stacking up. We'll look at the rest of the pack next week.

Yet another statewide survey shows big trouble for Governor Rod Blagojevich.

The Glengariff Group's poll of 600 registered Illinois voters found Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka leading Blagojevich 33-31.

Representative John Fritchey's spring legislative session was going extraordinarily well ... until he smacked into the past 10 days.

Fritchey (D-Chicago) was the prime motivator behind the unprecedented compromise between pro-life and pro-choice groups earlier this session.

Governor Rod Blagojevich was declared a "winner" by the Chicago media after the spring legislative session ended last week.

Adjourning the session by May 31 while, for a change, getting along with other Democrats, upholding his promise not to raise taxes, and coming up with lots of new programs and comprehensive medical-malpractice reform made him look pretty good in many eyes.

If you're wondering why Governor Rod Blagojevich would flip-flop on his solemn vow to reform the state's massively underfunded pension systems, you don't have to look much farther than the most recent poll.

A survey of 1,000 registered Illinois voters taken a week ago showed Republican state Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka leading Democrat Blagojevich by almost 10 percentage points.

Last year, House Speaker Michael Madigan sent a clear message to Governor Rod Blagojevich when he brought all of the governor's highly unpopular tax and fee hikes to the floor for up-or-down votes.

The governor's bills all lost by overwhelming margins, and Blagojevich was forced to back down from his demand that Madigan pass his proposals.

Illinois Republican leaders who attended a recent Will County retreat with Karl Rove were a little taken aback when the White House political guru talked excitedly about bringing Vice President Dick Cheney into Illinois to campaign on behalf of the Republican candidate for Illinois attorney general.

The scathing audit of the Illinois Department of Central Management Services that made such big headlines last week could be just the tip of the iceberg. The audit uncovered numerous problems at the agency, including some possible criminal activity, but inside sources say that there is much more to come.

There's no violation of state law if a toxic-waste landfill is partly owned by one of the governor's in-laws, or even a nuclear-waste dump, for that matter. There's no problem with the law if a member of the governor's family owns stock in a regulated monopoly such as Commonwealth Edison or SBC.

Harsh statements and public and private threats by Senate President Emil Jones over the past two years have prompted Senate Republican Leader Frank Watson to reach out to some labor leaders.

Jones has been sharply critical of the construction trades unions, accusing them of freezing out African Americans and Latinos from apprenticeship programs and job sites.

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