Bill Daley, a former White House chief of staff to President Obama, announced Tuesday morning that he was exploring a primary challenge to Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D).
In a slickly-produced campaign video tying himself to Obama, Daley said he wanted to "sound an alarm" about a state government he labeled as failing.
"The people of Illinois are paying a perilous price for political failure," Daley said. "We need solutions, we need action, we need leadership that gets things done. And the people of Illinois can't wait."
Daley is a prominent Chicago businessman whose father and brother were legendary mayors of the nation's third-largest city, but it's his time in Washington that he focused on in his campaign video. After then-chief of staff Rahm Emanuel departed to run for mayor of Chicago, Obama tapped Daley as a replacement. But Daley served only one year, from January 2011 to January 2012, after what some White House aides considered a rocky tenure. Daley returned to Chicago as the president reorganized his senior team heading into the reelection campaign.
In the video, Daley repeatedly referenced his time as Obama's top staffer, claiming credit for leading the "We Can't Wait" strategy that passed important legislation despite resistance from House Republicans. He said a similar approach is needed in Illinois' capital.
"The news from Springfield always seems to be bad," Daley said, referring to the legislature's failure to pass pension reform or marriage equality bills. The voters, he said, had become "numb to this failure."
Quinn is one of the most unpopular governors in the country and has not said whether he will seek reelection. Other Democrats are considering challenging him in a primary, including state Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Madigan is considered an x-factor in the race and would begin as a strong favorite in both the Democratic primary and the general election.
On the Republican side, state Treasurer Dan Rutherford, who chaired Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign in Illinois, and state Sen. Kirk Dillard are running.
By launching an exploratory committee, Daley can begin raising money for a campaign. He should have no trouble doing that, given his deep ties to Chicago's financial community as well as his decades of prominence within the national Democratic Party. Daley served in former President Clinton's Cabinet as commerce secretary and, in 2000, served as chairman of former Vice President Gore's presidential campaign.
The history of White House aides winning elected office is mixed. While Emanuel, who previously was a congressman, was elected mayor, other chiefs of staff have struggled in electoral politics. Erskine Bowles, a former Clinton chief of staff, returned home to North Carolina, where he lost two races for U.S. Senate.