- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 9, 2010

CHICAGO | The Democratic nominee for Illinois lieutenant governor dropped out of the race Sunday night, less than a week after winning the nomination, amid a political uproar about his past.

Announcing his decision at a Chicago bar packed with patrons watching the Super Bowl, a tearful Scott Lee Cohen said the Democrats were not certain they could win with him on the ticket. He said he was stepping down because he did not want to jeopardize the Democratic Party ticket.

“This is the hardest thing that I ever had to do in my life,” he said before choking up with sobs.

Since Mr. Cohen won the Democratic nomination on Tuesday, it has become widely known that he was accused of abusing his ex-wife and holding a knife to the throat of an ex-girlfriend — a woman who was herself charged with prostitution. He also admits using steroids in the past.

“For the good of the people of the state of Illinois and the Democratic Party, I will resign,” Mr. Cohen said in a rambling remarks made as the Super Bowl halftime entertainment blared in the background.

The revelations about Mr. Cohen’s past came as Illinois was starting to move on from the scandals of ousted Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich.

Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, who inherited the job after Mr. Blagojevich’s ouster following federal corruption charges, would have been paired with Mr. Cohen on the November ticket. Mr. Quinn, U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis and Sen. Richard J. Durbin all had urged Mr. Cohen to leave the race.

Mr. Quinn said Mr. Cohen had “made the right decision for the Democratic Party and the people of Illinois.”

“Now we can continue to focus our efforts on putting our economy back on track and working to bring good jobs to Illinois,” the governor said in a written statement.

Surrounded by his sons, his fiancee and her son, Mr. Cohen apologized to his family, his supporters and anyone he may have let down.

“All I ever wanted to do was to run for office and to help the people, not to cause chaos. That was never my intention,” Mr. Cohen said.

Until his nomination, Mr. Cohen was a political unknown. Democratic leaders had not considered him a threat to win and didn’t highlight his past during the campaign.

Mr. Cohen’s resignation from the ticket means state party leaders can replace him on the ballot.

“Now we can move on to find a strong replacement,” said Steve Brown, spokesman for the Illinois Democratic chairman, House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Mr. Cohen, a pawnbroker and owner of a cleaning products distribution company, ran against several veteran politicians, spending $2 million — mostly his own money — on his campaign, more than twice as much as all his opponents combined. He gained strong name recognition with a flurry of advertising featuring people who said they got jobs at employment fairs he held.

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