Voting for Cook County and statewide offices isn’t the most inspiring of exercises. Many of the races are pretty much pre-determined and/or neither candidate is very palatable.

Rod Blagojevich, for instance, the likely winner in the governor’s race, is the classic, compromised old-time pol who makes you want to hold your nose as you vote for him-even if you accept the argument that he can get the most done, being a well-connected wheeler-dealer.

Judy Baar Topinka, on the other hand, apparently didn’t come off that well during the campaign, which surprises and disappoints me. She’s actually very engaging, candid (especially for a Republican) and likable, both one on one and in small groups. I was hoping that even if she didn’t win, at least she would be a refreshing candidate. I realize it’s difficult to be yourself when you’re running for an office like governor, but nowadays, I would think a disarming personality would be an advantage. People want a candidate with some evident humanity-which likely explains the Barack Obama fervor.

Maybe Judy got bad advice from her “image polishers” or had to submit to conservative ideology.

I’m not sure if I’ll vote for her.

The other option, of course, is the Green Party candidate. At this point, it doesn’t much matter who that is. If you don’t like the offerings of the two main parties, a vote for the Green Party is more than just a way to register your protest (though that’s still a valid reason for voting). Going Green will help that fledgling party establish itself as a viable alternative in future elections. The higher their percentage, the better they can hurdle the many obstacles placed in their path to legitimacy. A little competition just might wake up the moribund Democrats and the neanderthal Republicans.

If voting for Blagojevich makes you want to hold your nose, voting for Todd Stroger for Cook County Board President makes you want to take a shower-not because of Stroger, but because of the way he ended up on the ballot. I refuse to encourage primogeniture in elected office. We fought a revolution to overthrow that system once upon a century. I would refuse to vote for him even if he were the better candidate, which, for all I know, he may be. Since there’s no Green Party alternative, I’ll be casting my vote for the Republican, Tony Peraica, which is kind of a kick for an old liberal like me. If by some miracle Peraica actually wins, maybe he’ll at least shake up a worthless, wasteful body of government.

But I’ll probably need a shower after that vote, too.

Undoubtedly, Democratic machine domination being what it is, Stroger will inherit his father’s seat and hold it for a long time-unless he proves to be a total incompetent. We can only hope he isn’t totally corrupt.

There’s only one vote I’ll cast without hesitation, and that’s for Don Harmon. He’s honest, works hard, and shows up. It’s a privilege to reward that combination, and voters don’t get very many opportunities to do so. I’ll vote for him even though he’s got the race sewed up.

It’s easy to be a cynic when it comes to the Cook County board, the state legislature, and the U.S. Congress, but at the moment we’re not doing all that badly on the latter two. Cong. Danny Davis is a good guy, even if he does do stupid things (like crowning Sun Myung Moon), and State Sen. Kimberly Lightford and state reps Karen Yarbrough and Deborah Graham fall into the “better than average” category. They actually have a pulse and work for their salaries.

In the current climate of political doofism, you can’t ask for much more than that.