This election cycle is getting wild. At first it was expected to be a three-way race between Governor Pat Quinn, Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Bill Daley in the Democratic Party Primary Election next year. Then, citing a conflict of interest with her father Michael Madigan who vowed to remain Speaker of the House, Lisa Madigan decided to just try to keep her current job. Then it looked like the three-way race could still be on with State Senator Kwame Raoul pondering entering the race. He chose not to. So, it looked like it would be a one-on-one battle between Quinn and Daley in a Primary Election race between a sitting governor vs. a former POTUS chief of staff/U.S. Commerce Secretary/corporate titan. Then, Bill Daley dropped out this week because he realized that he really didn’t want the job that bad. This changed the entire landscape. But what does it mean?
Quinn can now focus on raising money; use his position to glad-hand voters and county chairmen around the state; make targeted visits/announcements to get a big turnout in Cook County; pick a running mate - possibly Peoria’s State Representative Jehan Gordon-Booth, who if successful would be the first female African-American lieutenant governor in Illinois history (and help him with downstate, female and African-American voters); and cross his fingers that the General Assembly will deliver him a pension reform bill. If the last item happens, he can (and will) boast that he was the guy that saved the state from fiscal Armageddon. He will have some minimal opposition from Tio Hardiman, the recently fired head of the Cease Fire anti-gang violence program. But Hardiman’s efforts shouldn’t make a pin-prick in Quinn’s campaign. The real chess match will be on the GOP side.
There are four viable Republicans seeking Quinn’s job. They are all quite different. State Treasurer and Pontiac resident Dan Rutherford is the only one to have won a state-wide race. State Senator Bill Brady (Bloomington) barely lost to Quinn the last time. State Senator Kirk Dillard (Hinsdale) barely lost to Brady and now has the backing of former Illinois Governors Jim Thompson and Jim Edgar. Bruce Rauner has the GOP cherished “successful businessman/outsider” profile.
They must walk a fine-line of beating up each other in the Primary Election, but not so much that the party can’t rally around the victor to face Quinn in the General Election. They could try to see who can beat-up Quinn the most and the best. Although just after the Daley announcement this week, they seemed to be more concerned with Rauner’s relationship with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, meaning they think the battlefield will be downstate. Dillard should pull huge numbers in the DuPage County Republican stronghold and he picked a down-state running-mate, State Representative Jil Tracy from Quincy. Rutherford is the only one who can tout having actually won a state-wide General Election campaign. But, Brady and Rutherford are both from Central Illinois and could split the downstate vote. Rauner will focus on the business community, but he has poor name recognition. He must use his personal wealth to buy name recognition through media buys. Rauner has also never run for office and doesn’t have the campaign infrastructure the other three have throughout the state.
The GOP candidates really need to hope that a pension reform bill does not happen, which could help trigger a rebound in the state economy. If those two happen, Quinn will not have to hire a U-Haul to move out of the governor’s mansion. Even Bill Daley doesn’t think that will happen and predicts Illinois’ next governor will be a Republican. But Illinois Statehouse pols should have learned by now, never count Pat Quinn out. He always closes great and his route to victory just became a lot clearer – this time thanks to Bill Daley.