Gov. Pat Quinn (D)
Elected: Assumed office Jan. 2009, term expires Jan. 2011, 1st full term.
Born: Dec. 16, 1948, Chicago .
Education: Georgetown U., B.A., 1971; Northwestern U., J.D. 1980..
Family: Divorced; 2 children.
Elected office: Commissioner, Cook Cnty. Bd. of Tax Appeals, 1982-86; IL treasurer, 1991-95; Lt. gov., 2003-09.
Professional Career: Chicago revenue dir., 1986-87; Practicing atty., 1994-2002; Author.
Democrat Pat Quinn became governor of Illinois on Jan. 29, 2009, after the impeachment and removal from office of Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Quinn’s grandfather was an Irish immigrant who raised his family above the family grocery store in Chicago. Quinn’s father put himself through college on the GI Bill after serving in the Navy during World War II, and rose to become the public-relations director of Catholic Cemeteries in the Chicago archdiocese. Growing up in the comfortable Chicago suburb of Hinsdale, Patrick Quinn attended a parochial elementary school and then Fenwick High School, run by the Dominican Order in suburban Oak Park. He was captain of the school’s track team, and wrote about sports for the school newspaper, an interest that has stayed with him through life as a diehard Chicago White Sox fan. Quinn graduated with honors with a degree in international economics from Georgetown University. In 1972, a year out of college, he signed up as a volunteer for the anti-machine Democratic candidate for Illinois governor, Daniel Walker. When Walker won, Quinn got a job in state government, working on patronage appointments and transferring state workplace safety operations to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. In 1975, he left state government to attend Northwestern Law School—and to engage in politics, in his own way.
|Rod Blagojevich (D)||1,736,731||(50%)|
|Judy Baar Topinka (R)||1,369,315||(39%)|
|Rich Whitney (Green)||361,336||(10%)|
|Rod Blagojevich (D)||669,006||(71%)|
|Edwin Eisendrath (D)||275,375||(29%)|
Walker, defeated for renomination in 1976 and later jailed for defrauding a savings and loan, could be of no help. And in his suburban upbringing, Quinn acquired none of the connections that are usually essential to the rise of Democratic politicians in Illinois. “It’s not exactly an easy path I had,” he told the Chicago Tribune in February 2009. “I had no political patrons or ward committeemen backing me for any job.” Young and idealistic, Quinn launched the Coalition for Political Honesty, which operated out of an Oak Park basement, and got enough signatures for a 1976 referendum to stop legislators from collecting their entire salaries on the first day of their terms. In 1980, he got enough signatures for a “cutback” initiative to reduce the size of the state House from 177 to 118 members. Previously each district elected three legislators, with each party allowed only two candidates. This gave minority parties representation, but in some Chicago wards, the nominal Republicans were obedient to Chicago machine politicians. The measure passed, with help from what became a Quinn trademark—Sunday morning press conferences at the Blackstone Hotel, across the street from Chicago’s City Hall. Some labeled Quinn a political gadfly; others saw him as a political reformer.
In 1982, Quinn was elected to the Cook County Board of Tax Appeals, which handled property-tax appeals. In 1983, he created the Citizens Utility Board, a group that challenged utility and phone rate increases. Founding the CUB, which became a highly effective consumer organization, established his reputation statewide and helped him shake the label of gadfly. In 1986, he ran for state treasurer and lost in the Democratic primary to Jerome Cosentino. Chicago Mayor Harold Washington appointed him city revenue director, but he lost the job after a falling-out with other officials in the administration and after some internal grumbling about his penchant for seeking publicity. He began practicing law, specializing in property-tax appeals, and wrote a book called How to Appeal Your Property Taxes Without a Lawyer. He was also the lead attorney in a case, decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1990, that banned political considerations in state and local hiring.
In 1990, Quinn finally was elected state treasurer. He claimed to have made $848 million in investment income for taxpayers, but in the Republican year of 1994, he lost a contest for secretary of state to incumbent George Ryan, who was later elected governor and then jailed on federal corruption charges. Throughout his career in state politics, a reputation for shameless self-promotion followed Quinn from post to post. His successor as treasurer, Republican Judy Baar Topinka, claimed that on taking office, she found “Quinn for Governor” bumper stickers in the desk. In 1996, he ran for U.S. senator and lost in the primary 65%-30% to downstate Rep. Richard Durbin, who went on to be elected in November. In 1998, he ran for lieutenant governor, narrowly losing the Democratic primary to Kane County Coroner Mary Lou Kearns, 50.1%-49.9%, a margin of 1,468 votes out of 781,000 cast. The Democratic ticket lost in November, and Quinn continued to practice law and to attract public attention, notably by walking across Illinois from the Mississippi River to Lake Michigan to highlight the need for decent health care.
In 2002, he ran for lieutenant governor again, and this time won the Democratic primary, with 42% of the vote to 32% for Chicago hospital executive Joyce Washington and 25% for Downstate college teacher Mike Kelleher. He ran 849 votes behind Washington in Cook County, 150 votes ahead of Kelleher downstate, and carried the collar-county suburbs with 50% of the vote, to 28% for Washington and 22% for Kelleher. It was a rare example of a Democrat winning an Illinois primary by sweeping the suburbs. Success in the primary put Quinn on the same ticket in November with Democratic Rep. Rod Blagojevich, whose political career began to thrive after he married the daughter of powerful 33rd Ward Committeeman Richard Mell. Quinn had not been the choice of most Chicago insiders, and his relations with Blagojevich were never warm, but the ticket won 52%-45%, and Quinn accepted more than $48,000 in contributions from Blagojevich crony Tony Rezko, a businessman whose favorable deals for prominent politicians later tarred Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. Quinn says he gave the money to charity after Rezko went to jail for fraud and bribery.
Quinn was appointed to several boards, including the Mississippi River Coordinating Council, the Illinois Biofuels Investment and Infrastructure Working Group, and the Broadband Deployment Council. Blagojevich spent most of his time in Chicago, taking the state plane to Springfield when the Legislature was meeting. Quinn lived mostly in Springfield, and frugally, never accepting his $32-a-day meal allowance and paying for his own lodging, proudly showing off his Super 8 preferred customer card. He pushed a military relief act for aid to families of National Guardsmen and reservists called to active duty, and a Let Them Rest in Peace Act, to prevent disruptive protests at service members’ funerals. Always a bit of an eccentric, he carried a beat-up, 28-year-old briefcase he called Betsy and eschewed a laptop in favor of scribbling notes on scraps of paper. One of his proud possessions is a bow tie that belonged to longtime Democratic Sen. Paul Simon, who was lieutenant governor under Walker and a Quinn political hero. In 2006, as he and Blagojevich ran for second terms, he supported the incumbent governor without reservation, despite the fact that Blagojevich was under federal investigation. Quinn told the Tribune he found the governor to be “an honest person.” The Blagojevich-Quinn ticket was re-elected 50%-39%.
In Blagojevich’s second term, Quinn became more critical of the governor. He was not alone: Blagojevich was at odds with legislators of both parties, especially Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan. At one point, the House rejected the governor’s budget by a unanimous vote. In March 2007, Quinn opposed Blagojevich’s proposed $6 billion business-receipts tax. Later that year, he called on Blagojevich to urge Democratic Senate President Emil Jones (a mentor of his former colleague Obama) to pass an ethics bill. By April 2008, he was telling reporters he was “disappointed” in Blagojevich, blaming him for a “disintegration of comity in Springfield.”
Then on Dec. 9, 2008, as Chicago was celebrating election of favorite-son Obama as president, the city was stunned by the news that Blagojevich had been arrested by federal marshals and charged with attempting to trade the appointment of a successor to Obama in the Senate for personal or political favors. Quinn initially called for a special election to fill the Senate seat in the light of the taint of a Blagojevich appointment, but he quickly backed down under pressure from other Democrats who evidently feared a Republican might win such a contest. Quinn called for Blagojevich’s resignation, as did several other prominent Illinois Democrats, but the governor proclaimed his innocence and refused to budge. “He disgraced himself, he disgraced the people of Illinois and the proper thing to do is step aside and resign,” Quinn said on CBS’s Face the Nation. On December 30, even as the possibility of impeachment loomed, Blagojevich went forward and appointed former state Attorney General Roland Burris to the Senate. Senate Democrats at first refused to seat him, then acquiesced. In the meantime, the Illinois House voted 114-1 on January 9 to impeach Blagojevich. On January 29, the Illinois Senate voted 59-0 to remove him from office. And erstwhile gadfly Pat Quinn was suddenly governor of Illinois.
Quinn met that day with the other Democratic statewide officials to prepare for a transition. In early February, he started making appointments: A former head of his Citizens Utility Board became head of the Commerce department, the former president of Voice for Illinois Children became his chief of staff, the general counsel of the Illinois Reform Commission was named his general counsel, and a former Blagojevich Commerce head was appointed chief operating officer. On February 20, after Burris admitted he had more contacts with Blagojevich intimates about the Senate appointment than he had disclosed, Quinn said he should resign and allow his seat be filled in a special election, a process untainted by the Blagojevich scandal. On February 26, when he more forcefully said Burris would be forced to resign and to compete in a special election, black Chicago politicians objected. Quinn said he feared a revival of the racially polarizing “Council Wars” of the 1980s, in which African-American Mayor Harold Washington confronted powerful white aldermen. He met with top black officials, who may have reminded him that African-Americans cast 30% of the vote in statewide Democratic primaries, and he backed down on March 2. “My position is well known. I think there should be a special election,” Quinn said. “You cannot have a special election unless the incumbent resigns. The incumbent has said he will not resign.”
In addition to the political chaos he inherited from the pay-to-play scandal, Quinn faced major fiscal problems. It was estimated that state government needed another $3 billion to get through the fiscal year. State workers’ health care bills were delinquent, school districts were scrambling for cash, doctors and hospitals were going unpaid. On Feb. 4, 2009, Comptroller Dan Hynes said the state faced a $9 billion budget deficit. But Quinn declined to rescind Blagojevich’s pledge of $150 million should Chicago be awarded the 2016 Olympics. He ordered cuts in travel, contracts, and hiring, but opposed raising highway tolls (a significant expense for Chicago suburbanites). But that was not enough, and in March, he proposed raising the state income tax from 3%, where it has been since 1989, to 4.5%, cushioning the blow by raising the personal exemption from $2,000 to $6,000.
In 2009, Quinn was expected to run for a full term.