scott lee cohen

The Chicago Sun-Times says it has a source who tells them the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor Scott Lee Cohen is looking for an honorable way to withdraw from the general election.

That’s the good news in a week when we learned some very, very bad things about Scott Lee Cohen.

Facing intense and mounting pressure to step aside, embattled Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor Scott Lee Cohen is seeking an “honorable way” out, a Cohen campaign source said tonight.

Cohen, who mostly kept out of the public eye today, said as recently as Thursday that he had no plans to quit. But with Democrats across the state urging him to re-think that decision, Cohen appears to be concerned how revelations about his private life might hurt the Democratic party.

Close advisers have been trying to convince Cohen to “do the right thing,” warning that he could be blamed for “bringing down the party” by remaining a candidate, the campaign source said.

Cohen could not be reached for comment tonight. His staff has said he plans to speak tonight to the media at a downtown night club — where a table was roped off and waiting for him at 8 p.m.

This morning, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin called on Cohen to step aside, and several local women’s groups blasted the media and Cohen’s political opponents for “burying” and “ignoring” domestic violence issues.

“I’ve heard enough,” Durbin said. “And if there’s more — I don’t know what it might be — but I’ve heard enough to suggest that he should have not run for office.”

The senator added: “He really should spare himself, and his friends and family what he’s about to go through. I’m afraid the disclosures so far really disqualify him.”

I’ve stayed away from this one. Last night I watched WTTW’s Phil Ponce grill Cohen and his ex-wife on Chicago tonight. Generally amenable and courtly when he interviews, last night was the closest I’ve seen Ponce get to taking the gloves off. I felt for Cohen and ex-wife Debra York-Cohen, but I couldn’t help thinking that these two polite adults on WTTW were at each other’s throats just a short time ago. Ponce aired more dirt about the former couple than I cared to hear.

This is bad.

I also thought of former U.S. Senate candidate Jack Ryan, who saw records from his 1999 divorce from actress Jeri Ryan become public knowledge in 2004. Insiders with the Obama for Senate campaign told me Barack had no desire to use any personal information like this against Jack Ryan. The Obama campaign knew there were issues with the divorce, but then-candidate Obama ordered that the campaign focus on public issues, not issues personal to Ryan and his family. I believed them at the time, and I still do.

The Chicago Tribune and WLS-TV sought to have the divorce records opened. Eventually, we learned more than we ever cared to learn about Jack and Jeri Ryan and their tepid break-up, and none of that really mattered at all. Voyeurism got the better of the media, and many of the records were ordered unsealed by the court. What happened to Jack Ryan was unfair.

In October 2004, Jack Ryan told the Dartmouth Independent, “What was totally unprecedented in US politics is a paper suing to get access to sealed custody documents, sealed divorce records. No real precedent for that happening. Senator Kerry, for instance, has sealed divorce records and they’re not asking him to turn them over. After I dropped out of the race, people would say, “Hey, since Senator Kerry has sealed divorce records and they sued to have yours opened, in fairness, shouldn’t they sue to have Senator Kerry’s records opened?” And I said absolutely not. That’s the exact wrong thing to do. Just because it happened to me, it doesn’t mean that it should be the new standard. This is the new low for politics in America.” (Emphasis added)

Jack Ryan was right, but the media’s sanctimony and puritanical nature prevailed.

The circumstances with Scott Lee Cohen are much worse, however. Allegations of missed child support payments, domestic abuse and steroid use make the Ryans’ story look like a fairy tale wedding. According to the Sun-Times, as recently as two months ago, Cohen owed his ex-wife $54,000 in back child support payments. He also had to explain his October 2005 arrest, ” when he was accused of domestic battery. His accuser was his live-in girlfriend, who had been arrested on a prostitution charge earlier that year. She was later convicted,” the Sun-Times reports.

There has been a fair amount of finger-pointing throughout Illinois over this election. Why did we not know any of this during the campaign? Where was the media? Isn’t Carol Marin supposed to find out all of these things and tell us in her Sunday column? Cohen and his ex-wife insist it was all “out there,” but, if it was, no one paid attention. None of us paid attention. Maybe the media was preoccupied watching Todd Stroger’s ship sink. Perhaps the media was enthralled with the numerous races for governor. To tell you the truth, I hardly gave the race for lieutenant governor any thought at all. What does the lieutenant governor do anyhow?

Nothing. Except wait to be governor. And we all know now that can happen.

I vow in the future to do my own work vetting candidates for lieutenant governor candidates, but a late-night promise won’t do any of us any good right now.

They’re more important than anything.

Do I want a lieutenant governor who admits he used steroids to such a degree that he allegedly became violent and unpredictable. Am I comfortable with a man arrested on a domestic abuse charge even if he was never convicted?

No. No way.

Is Scott Lee Cohen electable in November?

No. Not now. Not at all.

Scott, whatever face you have left after this, save it. No one is asking you to “go gentle into that good night,’ but we do ask that you go.

I hope that Scott Lee Cohen and his ex-wife find some peace after all the dust has settled. I hope Scott Lee Cohen does the right thing and establishes a plan to get current with his child support payments. Anyone who can afford to drop $2 million of his own money on an election can afford to give his ex-wife $54,000 and then some for his children. Scott, pay up, get to know your children better. Bond with them. They’re more important than any elected office. They’re more important than $54,000.  They’re even more important than $2 million.