Before this year, the Illinois primary was always held around St. Patrick’s Day. But this year's primary was moved to Groundhog Day, and it feels strange. Sprightly leprechauns collecting signatures on behalf of candidates have been replaced by temperamental woodchucks with weather charts.

As a lifelong member of the South Side Irish, I’m accustomed to having the Illinois primary fall on or near a very special holiday — but one dedicated to a rodent isn’t it!

Before this year, the primary was always held around St. Patrick’s Day. Given the Celtic character of Chicago-area politics, this seemed natural.

Candidates came out in droves for last-minute campaigning during the now-defunct South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the still-going Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade downtown. Many politicians have tried to Irish-up their last names by adding a “Mc” or an “O” to appeal to the most stalwart voters in the city’s history.

But the primary was moved to Groundhog Day, and it feels strange. Sprightly leprechauns collecting signatures on behalf of candidates have been replaced by temperamental woodchucks with weather charts.

Having incurred the wrath of the election gods with this shift, both the Democrats and Republicans found themselves confronting peculiar circumstances.

Gov. Pat Quinn spent the first few days after his primary victory addressing accusations about his controversial running mate, Scott Lee Cohen. Illinois voters elected Cohen as the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, many perhaps not aware of his questionable past. Cohen has since dropped out.

But the gubernatorial campaign on the Republican side remains uncertain. State Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale is within 450 votes of state Sen. Bill Brady. This race may result in a recount.

Returning to last week’s holiday, the groundhogs held an election, too. Here are the results:
Punxsutawney Phil from Pennsylvania saw his shadow and predicted six more weeks of winter. But both Tumbleweed from Brookfield Zoo and Woodstock Willie from the northwest suburbs predicted an early spring.

Let’s hope the Prairie State’s two forecasters have the luck of the Irish with them this year, even if it’s not St. Patrick’s Day.

Suburban Life Publications opinions editor Jerry Moore can be reached at (630) 368-8930 or jmoore@mysuburbanlife.com. This column is the opinion of the writer and not of the newspaper.