It didn't work out as William Kelly had planned.
Kelly, a Republican candidate for Illinois comptroller, called a press conference for 1:15 p.m. yesterday at the James R. Thompson Center downtown.
There were two problems with this idea.
One he's not a state employee, so he's not allowed past the ground floor unless he has some government-related business.
Two, no one is allowed to campaign on state property.
So when Kelly approached the security checkpoint in front of the elevators, the guards stopped him. The sergeant in charge said that he also stopped now-Gov. Pat Quinn from doing something similar about four years ago, when he was campaigning for the lieutenant governor's seat.
Apparently, Kelly and I were the only ones who showed up for his ill-planned press conference, so we found ourselves with some time on our hands.
Rather than listen to him dis his opponents — what he planned to do — I had a little back-and-forth with him about his campaign, his experience running a production company, and a video that shows him giving a drunken rendition of "I Want You to Want Me."
"I fully recognize that I'm not a typical Republican," he told me, "and, I mean, thank God for that. 2010 is not the year for typical Republican candidates."
Kelly, 43, runs a company called Rev Productions, which puts out some high-energy sports-and-lifestyle programming for a local Fox affiliate and other broadcasters.
Much about the way he communicates proves that he is more a product of the entertainment business than the political world. He talked with his hands a lot, and joked almost constantly during our interview.
"Being a Republican does not mean that you cannot have a personality," he said.
On social issues, his perspective is closer to Hollywood than the Bible Belt. For example, when I asked him about the video, he said he was proud of it.
"That kind of thing happens all the time," he said.
Hypocrisy, in his view, is not when a conservative goes out, gets drunk and does silly things in public: It's when he tries to cover it up.
It was, after all, his publicist that sent us the video.
For Kelly, Republicanism represents something other than the social conservatism associated with some of its members.
"The reason I feel in love with the Republican party is because it was the party of business," he told me. "What happened to that party? It disappeared — from Illinois, and I think, nationally."
He pointed to Illinois' budget, crippled by too much spending and too little revenue. He said Republicans did too little too stop it and that Democrats have only one solution for it: taxes.
He said his experience as a businessman, and his Catholic upbringing, taught him accountability and principle.
"If something's wrong, you're supposed to stand up," Kelly said. "You're supposed to say, this is not right."
He told me he was running for comptroller because he wants the buck to stop with him, not because he sees the position as a stepping-stone to becoming governor.
Still, I suggested that I was skeptical that a man with no experience in elected office, a drunken online video and pretty wild mannerisms could be electable.
He pointed to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenneger, the man who turned from body builder to action hero to governor, all while keeping his foreign accent and name.
"Everyone told him, 'You can never be an actor. ... You can never marry a Kennedy. ... You can never become governor," Kelly said. "Look at him now."