It was Governor Pat Quinn's time to shine. Last night, Quinn was among the speakers who kicked off the Democratic National Convention. He was there to help ensure President Barack Obama's political future. But what about his own? From the DNC in Charlotte, North Carolina, IPR's Amanda Vinicky reports:
It was a good thing for a lot of Illinois Republicans in Florida last week for their party's national convention that the delegation's hotel was on a beach. Because there was a lot of showboating. The event doubled as an unofficial place for politicians interested in being the state's next governor to lay the groundwork. So many Republicans want to run that at one point, Chair of the Illinois GOP Pat Brady joked:
"I do want to thank those of you in the room that AREN'T running for Governor."
The prevailing assumption is that whoever the EVENTUAL Republican nominee is, he or she will be put up against Governor Pat Quinn. Quinn hasn't declared he's going to run for reelection when his term's up in 2014. But he's done nothing to deny it either:
"Well I'm not going to deal with that kind of focus now, I think we need to focus on policy in our state . There will be time for politics later on. This is 2012 election."
It's probably lucky for Quinn he's got more time. Despite his attempts, he's been unable to get legislators to agree on a plan to deal with Illinois' underfunded pension systems. Legislators complain he can't lead, that he flip flops, that he's too distracted. And it's not just Republicans. Fellow Democrats openly express frustration with him. And in part because of his quest to cut public employees' pensions, he's openly battling with the very unions whose money and manpower are credited with helping him win in 2010. Some state employees say they're done with Quinn forever. But the President of Illinois' AFL-CIO, Michael Carrigan says all's not lost. He says if Quinn extends the olive branch, labor will be at the table, ready to negotiate. And if Quinn wants a future in Illinois politics, Carrigan says he'll have to do just that:
"I haven't forgotten he won by 32 thousand votes, and I think a few other people haven't forgotten that either. I don't know how he could win a reelection again without making peace with labor."
Quinn's battle with organized labor contributes to his political vulnerability. As does his unpopularity. Polls have put his approval rating as low as 35 percent. If Democrats want to hold on to the governor's office, there's a chance the party's powers-at-be will try to slate someone else to run against him.
Chairman of the State Democratic Party, House Speaker Mike Madigan, is holding off pledging loyalty to Quinn in 2014:
"We'll defer on it, we've got to elect Barack Obama."
Still, so far no Democrat has surfaced as a challenger. Two of the people commonly suggested as potential primary opponents:
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, and Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Both have gotten plenty of practice answering, though the better word may be avoiding, the question. Here's Preckwinkle:
"My response to this is always the same which means I can't understand the speculation. Which is that I like sleeping in my own bed and I'm going to run for reelection. I don't know how I could be plainer."
And here's Madigan's line:
"You know what? I am here at the Democratic Convention focused on one race and that's the race for the White House."
A line she repeats, even when pressed, and pressed again, by a gaggle of reporters:
"You can ask me that after this election."
"Let me try it a different way."
"I'm still not going to answer your question Greg, but go ahead."
Democratic Representative Lou Lang says it's WAY too early to even begin thinking about if, or who, may run against Quinn:
"It's way too early. We have a governor. His name is Pat Quinn. And as long as I'm in the legislature, even though I've had well publicized debates with him on many issues, I'm going to be supporting this governor to move the state, forward just as Barack Obama wishes to move the country forward."
As Lang hinted he's not regarded as a trusted Quinn ally. If anything, the opposite. At times, Lang's criticism of Quinn has been quite harsh. Especially when it comes to the governor's handling of Lang's proposal to add five new casinos and slots at horse race tracks, a proposal Quinn recently vetoed. Lang isn't closing off the possibility he'd support someone else, WERE they to make a bid against Quinn.
He's refusing to even go there right now.
"not to say you'd back him,
"We have a long way to go. We made great strides. But we have much more to do in Illinois, as we do all across America. And it doesn't do us any good to spend our energies attacking our own. We must move Illinois forward. And to do that we should coalesce and help the governor lead."
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