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Ill. Democrats choose nominee after scandal

Shelia Simon, of Carbondale, Ill., listens as Gov. Pat Quinn answers questions following her selection as Lt. Governor by the Democratic State Central Committee Saturday, March 27, 2010, in Springfield, Ill. Illinois Democrats chose the daughter of former U.S. Sen. Paul Simon as their nominee for lieutenant governor after a scandal forced the primary winner to step down. Shelia Simon, of Carbondale, Ill., listens as Gov. Pat Quinn answers questions following her selection as Lt. Governor by the Democratic State Central Committee Saturday, March 27, 2010, in Springfield, Ill. Illinois Democrats chose the daughter of former U.S. Sen. Paul Simon as their nominee for lieutenant governor after a scandal forced the primary winner to step down. (AP Photo/Randy Squires)
By Christopher Wills
Associated Press Writer / March 27, 2010

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill.—Illinois Democrats chose the daughter of the late U.S. Sen. Paul Simon as their nominee for lieutenant governor Saturday following a scandal that forced the primary election winner to step down.

The Democratic State Central Committee chose Sheila Simon to fill the vacancy, passing over a longtime legislator who was the runner-up in last month's primary.

Voters generally choose the governor's running mate in Illinois, but this year's winner, pawn shop owner Scott Lee Cohen, withdrew after allegations surfaced of domestic abuse, steroid use and failure to pay child support. Cohen denied the allegations but stepped down amid political pressure, leaving Democratic leaders to pick a candidate.

Simon had the backing of Gov. Pat Quinn, who praised her public service and said it was important to have a downstate resident on the Democratic ticket. Simon, 49, teaches law at Southern Illinois University and served four years on the city council in Carbondale. Quinn is from Chicago, while both Republicans candidates are from downstate.

Committee members picked Simon over state Rep. Art Turner, who finished second in the primary. Some Democratic leaders said rejecting Turner, a black lawmaker from Chicago, would sour black voters on the Democratic ticket.

But Quinn brushed aside that suggestion after Saturday's vote, predicting that he and Simon would appeal to all voters.

Simon also could help Quinn's image as a reformer. She was a member of his Illinois Reform Commission, which recommended government changes after Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested on federal charges of trying to sell President Barack Obama's former U.S. Senate seat. Quinn, as then-lieutenant governor, took over after Blagojevich was removed from office.

Turner said Saturday he was a little hurt by how things turned out but understands the decision. He encouraged his supporters, hundreds of whom traveled to Springfield for the committee's vote, to support the Democratic ticket in the November general election.