So why did Republican gubernatorial nominee Judy Baar Topinka go with a Chicago casino idea to help fund her education, property-tax, and infrastructure proposals?

Well, a general tax increase had all but been ruled out months ago. Polling and focus-grouping showed high levels of opposition to a tax hike. Plus, Topinka already has enough troubles with her Republican base without doing something like that.

If you wanted to get an idea of how downright negative the governor's race will be this fall, all you had to do was hang around Republican Day at the Illinois State Fair last week and check your e-mail from the governor's campaign.

One speaker after another ripped into the Democrats during the Republicans' annual event. The speakers focused mainly on Governor Rod Blagojevich and the harm he has allegedly done to Illinois.

Stu Levine has flipped. Things are gonna get crazy real soon.

Levine was a big Republican insider with very close ties to Jim Ryan, Governor Rod Blagojevich's 2002 opponent. Some saw fair-minded bipartisanship when Governor Blagojevich reappointed Levine to both the Teachers Retirement System (TRS) board of directors and the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board. As we soon discovered, the appointments may have been made for entirely different reasons. And now Levine is in a position to create some truly serious trouble for the governor.

Stu Levine has flipped. Things are gonna get crazy real soon.

Levine was a big Republican insider with very close ties to Jim Ryan, Governor Rod Blagojevich's 2002 opponent. Some saw fair-minded bipartisanship when Governor Blagojevich reappointed Levine to both the Teachers Retirement System (TRS) board of directors and the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board. As we soon discovered, the appointments may have been made for entirely different reasons. And now Levine is in a position to create some truly serious trouble for the governor.

Every day for four years I got down on my knees and thanked God for sending me Governor George Ryan. I knew that no matter how slow the news day was, I could always count on Ryan's various scandals and antics to provide enough interesting fodder to fill up sufficient white space.

Reporter: "Governor Ryan, are you ‘Official A'?"

Ryan: "I don't believe I am. I sure as hell don't think I am."

Like I said, the man consistently provided solid-gold material.

Democratic state treasurer candidate Alexi Giannoulias has a new poll that shows he has an 11-point lead over his Republican opponent, state Senator Christine Radogno.

Giannoulias has struggled since shortly before the spring primary. Reporters started looking into his family's bank business, and came up with ties to some seriously shady mobsters. Things went downhill fast.

But all the bad publicity hasn't helped Radogno, a moderate, well-liked Republican legislator from the suburbs who had been considered by some to be the Republican with the best chance of winning a statewide race this November.

Rod Blagojevich and Judy Baar Topinka don’t agree on much, but their campaigns concurred last week that Governor Blagojevich is leading in the polls.

The Blagojevich campaign says its latest poll shows the Democratic governor leading the Republican treasurer 47-31 – a seriously large advantage. Topinka’s campaign has Blagojevich ahead 44-37 – a far narrower margin.

Meanwhile, the latest poll from an independent source, The Rasmussen Report, had Blagojevich leading 45-34, which is about right in the middle of the two candidates’ poll results. Still, Topinka’s polling during the spring primary matched up almost exactly with the Chicago Tribune polls, which turned out to be pretty accurate come primary day.

"I've researched this pretty carefully," confided a very high-level Blagojevich administration official this spring over late-night cocktails. "For any of this to be illegal, somebody has to profit. There has to be money involved."

The official was responding to my questions about the swirling allegations of state contracts and jobs handed out to political insiders. Since there was no personal profit, nobody was in any serious legal danger, he claimed.

This month's verdict in Robert Sorich's trial, however, proved that person to be dead wrong.

"There is so much more coming it is breathtaking," an almost always reliable source said recently when asked about the recent flood of news stories about alleged corruption within Governor Rod Blagojevich's administration.

That source wasn't the only one making this prediction. Plenty of others are saying that the Chicago Tribune is sitting on a large pile of explosives. Unlike 1998, when the Tribune mostly sat by while other media outlets ran stories about George Ryan's alleged corruption, the paper is clearly trying to stay out front on this Blagojevich thing. As you may have seen, the Trib published several more stories over the long Independence Day holiday weekend and then published follow-ups for days.

Should citizens of this state have a right to know whether their governor and his administration are under criminal investigation?

According to the Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, the answer is "no."

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