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A Second Look At Gubernatorial Running Mates

Normally the choice of a lieutenant governor excites little interest, but voters in Illinois know better. Five lieutenant governors, including current Gov. Pat Quinn, have risen to the top job in the past three years for varying reasons, including impeachment and criminal prosecution.

Thus Illinois Democrats closed the book on a potentially embarrassing episode this week as Gov. Quinn turned to a trusted name in state politics in his search for a running mate. He chose Sheila Simon, daughter of late Senator Paul Simon, to replace Lt.-Gov. Nominee Scott Lee Cohen, who dropped out after it was revealed he once assaulted a girlfriend.

Around the country, nine current governors achieved their jobs through succession, three of whom ultimately went on to win full terms in their own right. This November, four races feature an unelected governor seeking a full term -- Alaska, Arizona, Illinois and Utah. (In one, New York's unelected Governor David Paterson recently bowed out of a race for a full term).

Lieutenant governors in three other states are also mounting credible runs for U.S. Senate seats, including Arkansas' Bill Halter, Kentucky's Dan Mongiardo, and Ohio's Lee Fisher -- all Democrats.

If the vice presidency is a bucket of you-know-what, the lieutenant governorship might appear to be even less enviable. But in recent years the job has come to seem a newly powerful stepping stone. Ask San Francisco's mayor, Gavin Newsom, who recently dropped a flailing gubernatorial bid but now is running for the lieutenant governor's job.