As is the case in many political races throughout the country, candidates have been avoiding polarizing social issues and trying (most of the time) to talk about jobs and the economy--which is number one in the eyes of voters.
Perhaps benefiting most from a hyper-focused electorate in Illinois is Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady. Brady is extremely conservative for an Illinois politician--but that has not prevented him from consistently leading Governor Pat Quinn in the polls by about ten points.
But on Monday, one issue that has been virtually ignored throughout this campaign season was mentioned in an editorial by the Daily Herald: the death penalty.
In January of 2003, just days before leaving office amid corruption allegations, then-Governor George Ryan commuted the sentences of everyone on or waiting to be sent to death row in Illinois. The move came three years after Ryan declared a moratorium on capitol punishment in Illinois, because he believed that there was "a flaw in the system." One case that death penalty opponents pointed to for this moratorium over the years has been the 1983 murder of Jeanine Nicarico of Naperville. Rolando Cruz was put on death row for the murder, only to be exonerated years later. The real killer, Brian Dugan, pleaded guilty to the crime in 2009. He is currently on death row.
Judges can still sentence a criminal to death in Illinois--but for ten years no one has been put to death due to the state's moratorium. Bill Brady wants to change that.
"Bill Brady views the death penalty as an appropriate punishment for the most heinous crimes," campaign spokeswoman Patty Schuh told the State Journal-Register in July. In March, Brady said he would end Ryan's moratorium, adding that he didn't think it was "legal for a governor to step in and place a moratorium indefinitely on the death penalty, according to the St. Louis Globe-Democrat.
Those opposed to capitol punishment say that aside from the ethical issues the death penalty brings up--the cost issues should be a concern to the future governor, who has a $13 billion deficit to deal with.
"All the money we invest in the death penalty could go to other places," Colleen Cunningham of Equal Justice U.S.A. told the Illinois Statehouse News in March, adding that maintaining death row costs millions. "Do you want to spend millions on killing one individual or invest in education?"
While Brady has not discussed the issue in some time, a spokeswoman reiterated his stance in to a Daily Herald reporter this week.
Brady is the only gubernatorial candidate who wants to lift the 10-year moratorium and resume executions, the paper reports. Governor Pat Quinn supports the death penalty in some cases, but has no immediate plans to lift the moratorium. One way or another, the people of Illinois need a straight answer, the Herald editorial board writes:
"We believe today as we have in the past that this murky middle ground is confusing at best and political avoidance at worst. Many reforms have been put in place to give greater assurance that those on death row belong there. If more reforms are needed, let's see that it's done. If the system can't be trusted, then let's change the system or do away with the death penalty altogether."