Radio personalities or politicians?

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

By The Leader-Chicago Bureau (chicago@illinoisleader.com)

Nancy Skinner announced her run for U.S. Senate, and was promptly pulled from the air at WLS 890AM, a station who reaches most of the state north of Springfield.
 
U.S. Senate candidate John Cox hosts WJJG's "The Progressive Conservative," and is offering his show time to opponents while he is on vacation.
 
GOP candidate Rod Thorson challenged Senator Patrick Welch (D-LaSalle)
CHICAGO -- Two radio talk hosts are running for U.S. Senate in Illinois -- one on the Republican side, one on the Democrat side.

On her WLS AM 890 Sunday afternoon show this week, self-proclaimed politically-liberal radio talk show host Nancy Skinner announced to her radio audience that she is running for U.S. Senate as a Democrat, joining five other Democrats who have already filed.

"I'm not a radio host who's going into politics," Skinner told Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn. "I was a citizen who went into radio. I've been studying the key issues--foreign policy, national security, Social Security, defense, education, taxes, the environment--for many years."

Skinner told Zorn that she was overwhelmed by emails from potential volunteers and donors who encouraged her to run.

Skinner will be running in a different race than another radio host, John Cox, "The Progressive Conservative." Cox, who is running for GOP nomination for U.S. Senate to fill the vacancy to be left by U.S. Senator Peter Fitzgerald (R) next year, hosts a talk show program on Mondays and Wednesdays on the western suburban radio station WJJG 1530 AM from 11 am to 1 pm.

Cox, who makes his living as an accountant and attorney, is also making news this week with his radio talk show. The only thing is Cox himself will not be on the air. He is not even in town. He's on vacation in Canada.

Cox is giving his airtime while he's on vacation to fellow GOP candidates who are running for the U.S. Senate -- Andy McKenna from north suburban Glenview and Jonathan Wright, a former state representative from downstate Lincoln.

Bill Hogan, who will be conducting interviews while Cox is gone, said today that Cox thought it would be a great idea to give his opponents a chance to get their messages out to Illinois voters. Hogan said he is confirming that GOP candidate Jim Oberweis will be on the show next week and has already confirmed that Nancy Skinner will be doing the show, as well.

"That's interesting," another talk show host who ran for the Illinois Senate in 2002 said today.

Rod Thorson, a talk show host for WLPO 1220 AM out of the LaSalle/Peru area, had to take a leave of absence from his twelve year job when his opponent, State Senator Patrick Welch (D-LaSalle) demanded equal air time. (See Illinois Leader August, 2002 story,"Senatorial Candidates Scrap Over Local Radio Air Time")

Because Thorson works fulltime at WLPO, equal time for Welch would have meant that the station would have been forced to provide several hours of free air time per day for Welch.

"I said then that Welch's show would have been like Seinfeld's -- a show about nothing," Thorson joked, offering to take a leave of absence during the campaign. Thorson went back on the air soon after he lost to Welch in the November 2002 election.

"No one should be excluded from running for office because of the type of work he or she is in," Thorson said today, "and that includes people who do radio."

Having a good talk radio show is not as easy as the professionals make it seem, Thorson said. "I don't think radio hosts get enough credit for the service they provide to their audiences."

Being a radio talk show host does fit well with running for office, Thorson said.

"It helps in both fields to be a good communicator," Thorson said. "But there's a key difference between the two -- being an elected official is less about showmanship and more about substance."

And, Thorson said, it will be the people of Illinois who ultimately decide which they prefer from their elected officials.

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