Let's continue our look at U.S. Senate candidates. This time, the Democrats:

• Comptroller Dan Hynes - Obviously the man to beat. Hynes has lined up big-time labor support, he has the backing of most county Democrat chairmen, he has put together a good organization, and he has won two statewide elections by wide margins.

This seems like a good time to rate the various U.S. Senate candidates. Let's start with the Republicans.

• Jack Ryan - A handsome multi-millionaire with three Ivy League degrees, quit his investment-banking career and went to work as a teacher in an inner-city school.

The media missed the mark on Illinois Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka's press conference not long ago.

Topinka summoned reporters to issue a public demand that the governor call a special session to deal with the budget problem.

I generally sympathize with the pro-hunting folks, but the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance is engaging in either deliberate lies or abject incompetence these days.

The alliance's Web site (http://www.ussportsmen.

A costly mistake by the parents of a 4-H club member has turned into some bad publicity for Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

Representative Shane Cultra (an Onarga Republican) wants an apology from the governor over his remarks last week about the State Fair animal-doping controversy.

Pharmacists and road-builders have to wait months for their state-government reimbursements, but Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has managed to find the cash to green-light $200 million worth of pork-barrel projects.

Add the justices of the Illinois Supreme Court to the long list of politicians who have been bested by Governor Rod Blagojevich.

The governor has a way of bringing out the worst in his fellow politicos, and the Supremes were no exception last week.

In yet another example of how obsessed Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is about his public image, even during "the worst fiscal crisis in the state's history," the governor is requiring state employees to videotape and review local TV-news broadcasts about him seven days a week on state time.

Last Tuesday was a public-relations nightmare for Governor Rod Blagojevich, but he did manage to avert a complete PR meltdown with a last-minute deal.

A few months after freezing wages of nonunion state workers and deducting 4 percent from their checks to pay for their pension contributions, a month after vetoing pay raises for legislators and judges, two weeks after he unilaterally slashed the operations budgets of two statewide constitutional officers, and the same day that Latino legislators slammed him for breaking his promise about not cutting funds for social programs, the Chicago Tribune reported that the governor had given pay raises to some of his employees.

A $6-million annual state program to help at-risk high-school students graduate and find jobs has been vetoed out of existence by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

The program appears to be worthwhile, and the governor has never really explained why he wanted to kill it, other than he wants to "streamline" and "consolidate" the state's job-training efforts.

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