Quinn’s attention to campaigning and party politics paid off Friday when he won the overwhelming endorsement of Cook County Democrats, the machinery once in the firm grip of the Daleys. Bill Daley barely tried to compete for the endorsement. But the Chicago Tribune’s Rick Pearson wrote that while Quinn’s endorsement by county Democrats was not surprising, “the totality of its backing was.”
Daley noted that his brother was running for state’s attorney in Cook County and that he, too, failed to win the party’s endorsement. But Quinn credited the overwhelming support he received to old-fashioned politics.
“I’m an analog guy in a digital age,” he said as he pulled a notepad from his pocket to show how he took notes in his personal conversations with almost all of the 80 members of the slating committee who voted for the Cook County endorsement.
Dealing with the legislature
When I asked him how he sized up his opponent, Quinn said: “He’s not a reformer. Never has been. He’s not a progressive. Never has been. He’s not an organizer of grass-roots campaigns. Never has been. When you run in Illinois as a Democrat, you’d better be a progressive, you’d better be a reformer and you’d better know how to interact with everyday people. I’ve been doing that for the last 40 years.”
But Daley argues that Quinn has been absent where he could make the most difference. Quinn, he said, has been a bystander in Springfield as the legislature has allowed the state’s fiscal problems to fester and grow worse. “Pat’s very good at the outside game, but he hasn’t worked the legislature,” Daley said.
Quinn took the unprecedented step earlier this summer of using a line-item veto to suspend the appropriation for legislators’ pay. He says he will not allow lawmakers to be paid until they solve the pension problem. Daley called it grandstanding and a potentially terrible precedent that could allow a Republican governor to undo progressive reforms. Quinn said it was necessary to get the attention of the legislators and believes a resolution will be forthcoming.
Illinois has suffered badly because of its leadership. George Ryan, a former Republican governor, was just released from prison. Rod Blagojevich, the former Democratic governor, was impeached and is serving 14 years in prison for soliciting bribes, among them one in exchange for the Senate seat left vacant when Obama was elected president.
Quinn was lieutenant governor under Blagojevich and succeeded him. “We’ve straightened that out,” he said. “We run things with integrity.”
But Daley argues that the state under Quinn continues to suffer from a poor image. Neighboring states, he noted, all have lower unemployment rates than Illinois, and the Land of Lincoln lags behind other industrial states in the Midwest that are led by Republicans. “We don’t have a pride about us anymore,” he said. “There’s a perception that we’re just wallowing in all this stuff.”
The primary field may not be completely set. Recently, state Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the daughter of longtime state House of Representatives Speaker Michael Madigan, announced that she would not run for the Democratic nomination. But state Sen. Kwame Raoul, who leads the conference committee dealing with pension reform, has said he might join the race.
The primary contest, which early polls show is competitive, is only the first hurdle for Quinn. Republicans have a competitive primary of their own. Should Quinn survive the primary, he will be one of the Republicans’ major targets in November 2014. Daley said he doubts Quinn can win a general election, given his weaknesses.
“I’d like to see unity,” Quinn said. “I went through a primary in 2010. It’s no day at the beach. And we won, but it’s like a family fight. Who wants that? But it’s a free country. If you want to run an election, see you at the starting line. I’m not afraid of competition.”
For previous columns by Dan Balz,
go to postpolitics.com.