Given Gorecki already is the underdog

Greg Rivara

Given Barsanti s background, he already was a tough candidate to beat. ... He spent 21 years in the Kane County state s attorney s office, and many of those years were in leadership roles

It is rare indeed when the political challenger immediately becomes the front-runner.

That is exactly what Kane County has right now with John Barsanti s announcement to seek the Republican nomination for Kane County state s attorney.

And for anyone interested in politics, take careful notes on how the St. Charles man rolled out his campaign this week. It was textbook perfect.

Campaign announcements have one purpose: To whack undeclared candidates in the nose with a formidable display of support. Philosophical debates and baby kissing come later.

Given Barsanti s background, he already was a tough candidate to beat. He is an outstanding attorney. He spent 21 years in the Kane County state s attorney s office, and many of those years were in leadership roles.

He is battle-tested through his failed 1992 bid for the prosecutor s office. And after that defeat, he showed how much his loyalty and professionalism was respected when the eventual winner kept him on as an assistant state s attorney. When Barsanti left the office for private practice three years ago, he joined one of the best law firms in the country, Camic, Johnson and Wilson.

As is those credential were not enough, Barsanti surrounded himself at his formal announcement three former Kane County state s attorneys and a retired Illinois Supreme Court justice. Doing so confirms what most had suspected for more than a year: Not only is Barsanti a candidate, but he is the candidate to beat.

Currently occupying the third-floor office is Republican Meg Gorecki. She would like nothing better than to engage in a campaign that pushed philosophy, talent and ability to the forefront of the debate.

That will not happen. This campaign will be about decision-making. Specifically, Gorecki s decision to suggest to a friend that a county job could be purchased with a campaign donation to yet another Republican official. No such deal ever existed and the suggestion occurred before Gorecki was elected. Gorecki dismissed the episode as petty politics until the telephone messages she left on the answering machine were made public.

Gorecki chose not to respond to Barsanti s opening campaign salvo, explaining that it simply was too early to talk about campaigns. September, she said, is the appropriate time for such conversations. The primary is in March 2004.

In reality, Gorecki must not know how to respond. If honest, every elected official begins contemplating the next campaign the day after their election victory. You can identify the officials who do not start thinking that early they give concession speeches on election night.

September also is when the Illinois Supreme Court is expected to decide whether Gorecki s law license should be suspended for her ethical lapse. She faces no criminal charges because nothing was done to further the donation-for-job scheme. Rather, she must weather a professional disciplinary procedure for violating rules governing attorney conduct.

Until Gorecki formally declares that she will not seek re-election, she must be considered a candidate. As such, her opponents will hammer away at the three telephone messages and question her decision-making skills.

Gorecki knows this. That is why she must not delay her public campaign any longer if she is to have any hope at winning a second term. She won three years ago because she is bright, engaging and gathered support from those tired of the ubiquitous Old Boys Network. That voting bloc still exists. Those voters merely need a candidate to support.

This campaign will be like Gorecki s first one: Even though she is the incumbent, she also is the underdog.