There are seven Republicans vying for the chance to knock Pat Quinn out of the governor’s mansion.

Democrat Dan Hynes wants to beat them to it, hoping to defeat the incumbent during the Feb. 2 primary election. I try to keep an open mind about all political candidates, but I must admit to being disappointed in Hynes when he made a campaign stop in Ottawa on Monday.

It didn’t bother me too much that Hynes was about 45 minutes late to the event – many politicians are habitually tardy, especially when campaigning. What bugged me was his inability to go “off message” – or even off script when talking to the media.

Sure, that’s a dream come true for a politician’s handler. But Illinois voters deserve someone who thinks on his feet, especially with all the problems our state faces.

When Hynes entered JJ’s Pub to a round of applause, his handler gathered the media for a quick group interview opportunity. The topic of most questions was the usual fare: taxes, the state’s budget deficit, health care, Thomson Correctional Center, Quinn’s early-release program for prisoners. If you’ve been following the governor’s race, you already know how Hynes answered those questions, because those questions have been asked of him so many times he has the answers memorized.

I give WCMY’s Rick Koshko credit for asking about stem-cell research. Hynes apparently has answered that one before, because he had an answer ready. So I decided to throw him a curveball and ask him a question he may not have gotten previously.

I asked him about the Asian carp problem.

Hynes said he knows the carp are causing trouble in our waterways, but he hasn’t come out with a position on the issue, so he wasn’t going to say anything more about it.

While it may be understandable that the issue isn’t one of Hynes’ top priorities, we should expect a candidate for governor to have a widespread awareness of the issues facing the state. Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case against Illinois over the spread of Asian carp. It’s not exactly an under-the-radar issue. Shouldn’t a candidate for leader of Illinois have an opinion about something our state is being sued over?

As soon as he “answered” my question, Hynes abruptly ended the presser by turning away and quickly walking over to greet some supporters. He never thanked us for our time, which isn’t that important, except most candidates are nice enough to do so.

Let’s just hope that if Hynes becomes governor, he doesn’t turn his back on us the same way.

This column appears in this week’s print edition of Ottawa Delivered. Incidentally, I recently was promoted to managing editor of the print edition.

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