After Scott Lee Cohen withdrew his candidacy as the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor amid accusations of abuse by his girlfriend and ex-wife, the Illinois Democratic Party's central committee reviewed more than 250 applications to replace Cohen and run with Gov. Pat Quinn. The committee selected Sheila Simon, a 49-year-old law professor from Carbondale, Ill., who is also the daughter of the late Sen. Paul Simon, D-Ill. With only five months until the Nov. 2 election, Simon has been traveling the state, introducing herself to voters. Politics aside, here's what they might learn.
Created by huetteman on May 31, 2010
Last updated: 06/02/10 at 08:15 AM
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After reviewing more than 250 applications, the state central committee for the Democratic Party of Illinois chose Sheila Simon to run with Gov. Pat Quinn. As part of the process, candidates were narrowed down until 17 were chosen to address the entire committee and a public audience. "It was kind of like an 'American Idol' process," Simon said.
After 100 days of research and travel around the state, Sheila Simon and the rest of the Illinois Reform Commission released recommendations about how to address the state's corruption and other political problems. The commission, appointed by Gov. Pat Quinn, emerged in response to the arrest of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was accused of trying to sell President Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat.
Sheila Simon lost her bid for mayor of Carbondale to incumbent Brad Cole with about 44 percent of the vote to his 56 percent. Cole predicted a loss would end Simon's political career. "It's important to participate in the political process, and if that would have been the end of my political career, that's OK," she said.
Sheila Simon was elected to a four-year term on the Carbondale City Council. She said she ran because she was interested in having a say in what happened to an old school building near her home, which became the Boys and Girls Club.
Jamming in backyards led to a folk rock and blues band in 1998 when Sheila Simon and four friends formed Loose Gravel. "Loose Gravel is kind of a metaphor for the fact that it's a mixture of music," said Lynda Killoran, a counselor who plays bass and drums in the band. Killoran said Simon, who plays banjo and bassoon, is the ideal band mate. "She's very dependable, professional, she practices, she's very creative, she gives good input." The band will continue to play gigs, with or without Simon, if she is elected.
Sheila Simon began teaching law part-time at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Ill., in 1992. She eventually became a full-time professor and has taught courses including Family Law and Legal Reasoning and Writing. Simon is currently on leave while campaigning for lieutenant governor and said she would return to teaching if she lost in November.
Paul Simon carried only his home state of Illinois in the Democratic primary for president in 1988. While Paul was running for president, Sheila married her husband, Perry Knop. "On a personal level, I think there is a huge difference from being on the outside looking in than being on the inside," said Knop, who is a political science professor and chairman of the social science department at the John A. Logan College. "I've been the son-in-law of a candidate, and believe me, that's yet another degree of separation from everything that goes on in a campaign."
Sheila Simon graduated with a law degree from Georgetown University.
Paul Simon was elected to the U.S. Senate the year after Sheila graduated from college. He left the Senate in 1997.
Sheila Simon graduated from Wittenberg University, a private, Lutheran liberal arts college, with a Bachelor of Arts degree.
Sheila Simon first moved to Carbondale, Ill., with her family the year she turned 13. There her father ran for the U.S. House of Representatives and won. Simon attended junior high school in Carbondale before her family moved to Washington, D.C. She went to high school in Maryland.
Sheila Simon was seven when her father was elected lieutenant governor of Illinois — the position for which she was nominated more than 40 years later. "When Dad ran for lieutenant governor, our summer break from school we spent in this station wagon that had painted on the outside of it, 'Paul Simon for Lieutenant Governor'," Simon said. Paul Simon, a Democrat, served with Gov. Richard Ogilvie, a Republican. (Changes to the Illinois constitution ratified in 1970 required that the nominees for governor and lieutenant governor from a particular party be elected together.)
Paul and Jeanne Hurley Simon lived in Troy, Ill., when their daughter, Sheila, was born. The couple had served in the Illinois General Assembly together.