"I was walking last week in Arlington Heights, and the first three homes I visited had at least one family member unemployed. At one home, both the husband and wife were unemployed and couldn't find work. She was so upset that she could barely talk about their situation," wrote Dan Seals, a Democratic candidate seeking the congressional seat being vacated by Mark Kirk, in an e-mail on November 19.
Seals hit a political nerve.
Seals, who is facing State Rep. Julie Hamos (D-Evanston) in the Democratic primary, is among a small but growing circle of Illinois candidates knocking on doors who grasp that jobs -- not our famed and ballyhooed corruption scandals or income tax plans -- are the key issue to win the 2010 elections here.
Additionally, on Thursday, the Illinois Department of Employment Security announced the Illinois unemployment rate zoomed from 10.5% to 11.0% -- the highest in 26 years.
Seals notes that the unemployment rate in the tony 10th Congressional District has increased from 5.7% to 8.9% in the last year, a 56% a jump.
And Seals is not the only candidate to figure out that jobs are issue number one.
Ann Williams, a Democratic state legislative candidate seeking the House seat being vacated by John Fritchey on Chicago's North Side, has knocked on 1,500 doors and gets virtually the same jobs message from voters at each door.
"The people at the doors tell me they have either lost their job, their neighbor has lost a job, or they fear they will lose their job because of downsizing," said Williams. "Jobs emerge in all conversations."
Illinois Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jacob Meister, who is running for Barack Obama's Senate seat, is already airing television ads on broadcast television downstate focusing on -- jobs. In fact, Meister says in his ad that it's "jobs, jobs jobs not corruption" that is the subject on voters' minds. He's right.
And national and local polling backs up Seals, Williams and Meister.
According to a recent Gallup poll,
After several months of decreased concern, Americans in November are more likely than last month to cite economic concerns as the most important problem facing the country. Now, 31% mention the economy in general and 20% mention unemployment as the top problem.
Illinois Republican Governor candidate and former business man Adam Andrzejewski just released a poll that, among other points, notes that the economy and jobs are top issues for Illinois Republican primary voters at 39%. Political corruption ranks at a measly 3%.
If Andrezjewski was smart -- if -- he would ditch his nickel-and-dime campaign slogan of "Every Dime Online in Real Time" regarding Illinois budget transparency as means to save money. We'll see. Once a campaign has a slogan it is hard to rid itself of the warm, snuggly feeling that its familiarity breeds.
Another gubernatorial candidate who would benefit from a shift of focus -- who is indeed a smart guy -- is Comptroller Dan Hynes, trailing Gov. Pat Quinn 2 to 1 in some polls. Hynes has made his progressive income tax plan -- "to fix the budget mess" -- the centerpiece of his campaign against Quinn.
"I ... support jobs and better education, but until we have a plan to pay our bills, balance our budget and emerge from the fiscal hole that is threatening the future of Illinois ... ," Hynes stated on Oct. 22. He's right. The fiscal hole does threaten the future of Illinois. But jobless Illinoisans threaten it more.
Whatever political sense a progressive income tax to fix the Illinois budget made in early August, it no longer makes political sense in November. The climate has shifted.
If Hynes has any doubts, perhaps he should join Seals or Williams and knock on a few higher-income, unemployed doors and pitch his progressive income tax to fix the "budget mess" as the number one problem -- and hope the door misses his backside on the way out.
Let the gear shifting begin.