Quinn is an old-fashioned liberal who believes that the philosophy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt is as relevant today as it was during the Depression. He came up in Illinois politics as an outsider and still talks as if he is one.
“I believe in being aggressive and progressive,” he said as he sat at his favorite table in a restaurant across from the James R. Thompson Center state office building in downtown Chicago. “I don’t believe there’s any governor in the country who’s been more progressive, reform-minded, and our record proves it.”
He cites ending the death penalty, pushing through civil unions, an expansion of health- care coverage and a $30 billion public works measure that includes money for high-speed rail and other infrastructure projects.
He also raised the state income tax during the depths of the recession, a controversial move that did not solve the state’s fiscal problems. “It was an emergency,” he explained. “We had a five-alarm fire. Unless we raised the revenue to pay these fundamental bills, there would have been radical cuts in our schools, health care and human services.”
Chicago political scion
Quinn’s Democratic opponent bears one of the most famous names in Chicago politics. Bill Daley was a commerce secretary in the Clinton administration, served as White House chief of staff under President Obama and is the son and brother of two Chicago mayors who combined to lead the city for more than 40 years. The Daley name is a mixed blessing among Illinois voters.
Daley has operated in politics behind the scenes for his entire career, as an adviser to his brother, Richard M. Daley; as chairman of Al Gore’s presidential campaign in 2000; and in various other roles in Democratic campaigns. He twice looked at running for governor in the past but backed away. Now, in his first race as a candidate, he has decided to try to knock out an incumbent from his own party.
Quinn, he says, is “a nice guy” but a weak leader who has failed repeatedly to solve the state’s budgetary problems, even though Democrats control the legislature in Springfield. “A state like ours, any state, needs a strong governor. And if there’s anything that most people, I think, would say, it’s that Pat is not a strong governor,” Daley said from his office on the 25th floor of the JPMorgan Chase building.
Daley served as a senior executive at JPMorgan Chase before and after his time in the Obama White House. Quinn has seized on that experience to attack him. When I asked Quinn how he would respond to criticism that his state has such a high jobless rate, his reply offered a taste of the rough campaign ahead.