Brown: Quinn, the candidate, should cede the stage to Quinn, the statesman
BY MARK BROWN July 10, 2013 7:38PM
Updated: August 12, 2013 11:53AM
I believe in Pat Quinn.
And that’s why I think he should announce immediately that he will not be a candidate for re-election as governor in 2014.
With Quinn’s personal political ambitions removed from the equation, he could better use his last 18 months as governor to move boldly to solve the state’s pension crisis.
In the process, Quinn could both secure his own legacy of honorable leadership and position the state to move forward under its next chief executive.
I say that as someone who might well end up voting for Quinn again next year over many of the other hopefuls now eyeing the race, assuming he ignores my advice. But I’d rather see him take himself out of the running and concentrate solely on the people’s business.
Consider Wednesday’s announcement that Quinn is suspending the pay of state lawmakers for their failure to enact pension reform — a move immediately derided as an empty political stunt from a governor trying to score points with voters.
If Quinn was not seeking re-election, his decision to cut off legislative salaries could more easily be accepted at face value — as a legitimate attempt to goad lawmakers into acting.
As it stands, even if you like the idea of cutting off legislators’ pay, do you have any doubt that sooner or later, one way or another, they are going to receive every penny owed to them? I don’t.
The same goes for Quinn’s attempted rewrite of the state’s new concealed carry gun law, which came across as little more than an opening salvo in a re-election strategy that hopes to use the NRA as a punching bag.
Does Quinn have legitimate concerns about the law? Absolutely. I share them. But those were easily lost in his political posturing.
Yet this goes beyond Quinn’s most recent forays in campaign mode.
For at least the past year, every move Quinn has tried to make has been complicated, some might say poisoned, by the looming gubernatorial candidacy of Attorney General Lisa Madigan, daughter of his real nemesis, House Speaker Mike Madigan.
How does that make it Quinn’s responsibility to step aside, you might ask. It doesn’t.
But he’s the one in a position to be a statesman. He’s the one who really does want nothing more than to do his best for the “people of Illinois, good and true”— to quote one of his cornball sayings.
I’ve been covering Pat Quinn for as long as I’ve been a reporter. Back in his gadfly days, I spent many a Sunday morning with him when he would take advantage of the slow weekend news cycle to hold news conferences advancing one or another of his populist causes.
I saw enough through the years to conclude Quinn really believed in most of the reform efforts he championed and that he wasn’t attracted to government as a way to make a buck, which is not to underestimate his considerable personal ambition.
Even as he bounced from one campaign to the next, sometimes winning, sometimes losing, Quinn showed his heart was in the right place, which is why Illinois voters kept coming back to him.
That’s why I thought he was the right man at the right time to take over for the impeached Rod Blagojevich in January 2009. And he was.
Quinn has accomplished plenty in that time under difficult circumstances, those accomplishments overshadowed by the unfinished business of pension reform that he bravely staked out as his responsibility where other governors had shirked. He didn’t create that problem, and he can’t fix it on his own either. That requires the Legislature, where Madigan holds the reins.
It’s understandable Quinn would want to run again. Despite his political difficulties, he still could be a viable candidate, depending on the opponent.
Politicians can always justify actions taken in pursuit of re-election on the basis of the good they can achieve in another term.
The Pat Quinn I knew through the years was not just another politician plotting his next election.
He’s someone with a philosophy of government that he wanted to advance.
Part of Quinn’s philosophy used to include term limits. True, he probably would never have limited Illinois’ governor to one-term, but by the time he completes this one he’ll have been in office six years. That’s a good run.
In moving to punish lawmakers Wednesday, Quinn said he would voluntarily refuse his own pay as well.
He’d have been better off keeping the money and suspending his campaign instead.