SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -The nominees for Illinois’ top executive positions have struggled to gel with running mates they don’t know – or particularly like – for years.

A state lawmaker wants to give gubernatorial candidates the opportunity to choose their own running mates, similar to the federal system that allows presidential candidates to select vice presidential nominees.

Scott Lee Cohen, the unexpected winner of last week’s primary for the Democratic lieutenant governor nomination, is just the latest example of the complications that result from Illinois’ unusual system. Cohen dropped out of the race on Sunday after allegations of abuse from his ex-wife and an ex-girlfriend were reported and Democrats, including Gov. Pat Quinn, urged him to withdraw.

Rep. Lou Lang, a Chicago-area Democrat, said the Cohen debacle “pushed the idea along” but he has considered changes to the election process for some time.

“It’s always bothered me that when the president is nominated, he basically picks his running mate and here in Illinois we saddle a gubernatorial candidate with a lieutenant governor candidate that isn’t his or her choice,” Lang said.

The legislation requires governor and lieutenant governor candidates to file their election petitions together. The pairs would be listed together on primary ballots.

Illinois’ constitution allows the General Assembly to link the offices by passing a law but doesn’t require any amendment. Lang’s bill is House Bill 5820.

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