SCOTT LEE COHEN, WE HARDLY KNEW YE…. Illinois has had its share of political troubles, but the story of millionaire pawnbroker Scott Lee Cohen was just bizarre, even for the Land of Lincoln.
Cohen inexplicably won the state’s Democratic primary for lieutenant governor recently, despite lacking any official party support. Cohen, a political neophyte, succeeded by spending $2 million of his own money on the primary, winning the six-way primary with 26% of the vote.
Yesterday, after intense pressure from a wide variety of officials, Cohen quit.
A tearful Scott Lee Cohen, the pawnbroker who won the Democratic lieutenant governor nomination, only to have his scandalized past surface and threaten the ticket, said Sunday he would step aside, giving Democratic Party leaders a chance to pick his replacement.
“For the good of the people of the state of Illinois and the Democratic Party, I will resign,” Cohen said.
That was undoubtedly the correct call.
If you’re just joining us, Cohen’s troubles began the day after his primary victory, when voters learned that Cohen was arrested in 2005 for holding a knife to his girlfriend’s neck, and his girlfriend at the time also happened to be a prostitute.
As if that weren’t quite enough, we also learned that Cohen illegally abused anabolic steroids, allegedly abused his ex-wife, was allegedly behind in child support payments, and has had “troubles” when it comes to paying his federal taxes.
It wasn’t long, then, before, practically every Democrat in Illinois — including Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin and Gov. Pat Quinn — was publicly calling on Cohen to withdraw. (Under state law, Quinn and Cohen had to run as a ticket, making it almost impossible for Quinn to win in November.) Cohen rejected those calls last week — Cohen repeatedly referred to himself as “electable” — before realizing yesterday what had to be done.
The state party will select a new nominee, ending yet another strange chapter in the storied history of Illinois politics.