The announcement last week by former Illinois state Sen. Laura Kent Donahue that she plans to run for Adams County circuit clerk next year answers another intriguing question: She likely won't be a candidate for Quincy mayor in 2013.
Donahue has been one of several Republicans touted as a possible challenger to Mayor John Spring -- if he decides to seek a third term -- or a Democratic successor in the April 2013 municipal election. And she said last week that she considered it before deciding circuit clerk was a "better fit."
Democrats have held the mayor's office since Verne Hagstrom narrowly edged Richard Magliari in 1985. But Republicans -- buoyed by big gains on the City Council that now give them a veto-proof 10-4 majority -- have their eye on putting one of their own in that office.
Donahue, who spent 21 years in the Illinois Senate before being defeated by upstart John Sullivan in 2002, has been prominently mentioned in political circles in recent months as a possible mayoral candidate. Name recognition and the ability to raise campaign funds were among her notable selling points -- offsetting, in part, being away from elective office for nearly a decade.
Donahue already is earning a $72,000 annual pension from her days in state government, which could be a bigger campaign issue in a mayoral race. And now at the age of 62, the mayoral position would be considerably more demanding than that of circuit clerk -- especially in light of the state's financial woes that continue to heap hardships on municipal governments.
Republicans, no doubt, also want to keep their advantage in Adams County government. The GOP has a majority control of the County Board and holds three of the five county offices, and Donahue's entrance into the circuit clerk race gives the party a leg up for 2012, even though all candidates still must articulate why they want the job, why they are the best choice and what initiatives they plan to implement if elected.
The picture for the 2013 mayoral race has yet to come into focus.
Spring, who scored narrow victories over C. David Nuessen in 2005 and Dave Bellis in 2009, has yet to say if he will seek a third term. His predecessor, Chuck Scholz, held the office for 12 years before stepping aside for health reasons.
Spring said last week that it's too early to make a decision on his future political plans, saying he will make an evaluation when the "time is correct."
Regardless of who the Democratic candidate is 19 months from now, a Republican challenger may likely come from the City Council. Hagstrom was the last alderman to make that transition.
Third Ward Alderman Kyle Moore has made no secret in party circles that he would like to make a run for mayor, even though he is only 30 and has yet to serve a full term on the council.
Moore admitted last week that he is considering a mayoral run after receiving encouragement from "some people" in the community, but he said his focus now is on the tax levy that will be decided in December and budgeting for next year's cityspending plan, which won't wrap up until late April.
His 3rd Ward seatmate, Paul Havermale, also has expressed an interest in moving over a couple of seats on the council floor, but he also said it's too early to make a decision.
Another council newcomer, 6th Ward Alderman Dan Brink, also has been mentioned as a potential candidate. "I would consider it an honor to be considered, but it's too early to make a decision," he said, echoing his fellow aldermen.
If either Moore or Brink decide to run for mayor, they will have to give up their aldermanic seats that also will be on the ballot in 2013, putting them in a "win-or-out" situation.
One Republican aldermen who said he won't be a candidate is Mike Rein of the 5th Ward, who also is executive director of Transitions of Western Illinois and would have to take a significant pay cut to be mayor. Rein said he harbors no mayoral ambitions, although he admitted he did encourage Donahue to make that run.
Another person who won't be running is Travis Brown, executive director of the Historic Quincy Business District.
Brown's name has been floated as a potential candidate, but he sought out members of the media at the Aug. 22 council meeting to emphatically say he has no intentions of running for mayor.
Also count out Ray Heilmann, who will retire next June after more than two decades as principal of Quincy Notre Dame High School. Heilmann had been mentioned as a possible Democratic candidate if Spring -- who was executive director of the QND Foundation when he entered politics -- chose to not seek a third term.
"I have no interest in anything in politics," Heilmann said.
While there is no shortage of Republicans interested in running for mayor -- and, no doubt, additional names will surface -- little has been speculated on the Democratic side should Spring step aside.
Democrats are still smarting from seeing their 10-4 majority on the council evaporate in the past decade, most notably after Scholz left office in 2005, and the party has endured a succession of party chairmen since Virgil Goehl was forced out nearly a decade ago.
The only thing that is relatively certain is that the five months beginning with the November 2012 general election should be entertaining.