He shouldn't be, but Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Collinsville) remains the favorite to win re-election on Tuesday.

Hoffman's vying to become a two decade incumbent. He's a Democrat in this traditionally Democrat-voting area. And he has gobs more money than his challenger, business executive Dwight Kay, who's fighting an uphill battle in what pundits predict will be a rough round at the polls for Republicans.

That's not to mention the presence of Illinois' junior senator and presidential candidate, Barack Obama, on the same ballot this year with coat tails to give.

Hoffman hopes Madison County voters have been sufficiently distracted by the presidential race so as not to remember our state representative's claim to fame and clout in Springfield: his tight relationship with two-term Governor Rod Blagojevich.

Blagojevich, currently under investigation by federal prosecutors for alleged corruption, has a 13% job approval rating in Illinois, according to a poll released last week by the Chicago Tribune. In this deep blue state, that's hard to fathom.

Hoffman and Blagojevich aren't merely acquaintances. They're so close, they once bunked together in Springfield. When the Chicago Democrat ran for governor back in 2002, Hoffman got behind his candidacy. He's been enjoying the spoils ever since.

Hoffman is a powerful Democrat leader at the state capitol. It's undeniable. He gets to rubs elbows with the state's powerbrokers because he has the governor's ear. Hoffman has even parlayed his clout into a cushy job with the controversial, cash-rich, Lakin Law Firm, where he draws a fat salary for lending his name to the firm nameplate.

We all should be so lucky.

It's obvious that knowing the right people has paid off well for Jay Hoffman. Whether it has paid off for the Illinois citizens who rely on this man to represent our interests in the State House, is the real question voters should ask this Tuesday.

This election year drama isn't about guilt by association. It's about whether voters will catch on that Hoffman has become a little too self-serving.

Jay Hoffman may escape with his job on Tuesday. That doesn't mean he should.

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