Kadner: Why run for governor of this state?
By Phil Kadner firstname.lastname@example.org August 2, 2013 8:08PM
Updated: September 5, 2013 6:44AM
Why would anyone want to be governor of Illinois?
The question came from an old buddy who lives out of state but has read all about our financial problems.
My response, “I don’t know.”
Lisa Madigan, the Illinois attorney general, announced she would not run because her father, Michael Madigan, is speaker of the House. Maybe she just figured out the job stinks.
“Haven’t, like, six governors gone to prison?” my friend said.
I’ve lost count, to tell the truth. Otto Kerner, Dan Walker, George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich all went to prison. That’s four of the past seven governors. But I think only two, Kerner and Blagojevich, actually were indicted for crimes committed while in the office.
My pal’s questions brought to mind another that I’ve heard often from voter throughout the years — why would anyone run for public office?
That question usually is posed to suggest that no one in their right mind would want to expose themselves and their families to public scrutiny. I can’t argue with that.
But we have a lot of candidates now running for governor, and no reporter has publicly questioned their sanity.
The question, “why are you running?” often is asked at an opening campaign news conference, and the answer almost always is something like, “Because I want to give something back to the community” or “People kept asking me to run.”
The multimillionaires usually are the ones who want to “give something back,” but it never seems to occur to them they could just give away all their money. Chances are that would have a greater impact on people than their long-shot run for office.
I mean, really, how many governors have had a positive impact on your life or on the state itself?
Bill Daley, the son and brother of former Chicago mayors, is running for governor. He has to know how terrible a job that would be, having had a firsthand look at what the news media can do to a political family. Of course, he also has to know the benefits.
So he’s going to spend months on the campaign trail, is willing to raise millions of dollars and make all sorts of promises to people in public and private life about what he will do for them.
He’s served as chief of staff to President Barack Obama and U.S. secretary of commerce to President Bill Clinton. You have to figure a guy with that much experience must have weighed the pluses and minuses and decided, “Yeah, I want to do this.”
I would be much more interested to hear an in-depth, sincere answer to that question than Daley’s thoughts about Metra, the Catholic Church or same-sex marriage.
Here’s a guy who seemed to have a pretty successful, happy life as a behind-the-scenes-type player. He figured out how to move into the private sector and make money off his political connections.
So why does he think being governor is going to give him something he has never had?
Mike Madigan has driven every governor nuts since he has been speaker of the House (every year but two since 1983). They can’t do anything without his approval, and on crucial issues he usually doesn’t cooperate.
Maybe Madigan will retire soon. Maybe the Daleys and Madigans go so far back it won’t be a problem.
Still, there’s that little matter of no money in the Illinois treasury.
And there’s always someone sitting in the U.S. attorney’s office who would like to put a Daley on his resume.
Forget about that for a minute, and think about Richard “R.J.” Vanecko, the Daley nephew who’s under investigation for punching a young man who eventually died.
There’s always a Daley nephew, cousin or in-law who is going to get into trouble doing something. Doesn’t Daley worry about that? I guess not.
And then there’s the rich guy, Bruce Rauner, the venture capitalist Republican who is worth millions and millions of dollars. Do any of us dream of winning the lottery and running for governor?
Of course not. We want to quit work, play golf, go to Vegas and get treated like a high roller.
And, oh yes, we’d buy new homes for our parents and children and make sure they never have a financial worry ever again.
I’ve heard people dream about all of that but never about running for public office.
Normal people don’t think that way. People who run for governor are not normal.
Take Pat Quinn.
Quinn has been beaten up by the news media, ridiculed by members of his party and been forced to spend years pleading with his fellow Democrats to “please, please, pass pension reform.” Yet, instead of giving up, he appears to want four more years in office.
You’ve got to have a huge ego to want to be governor, a thick skin and a strong stomach.
As far as making life better for the little people, the average guy, I maintain you could do a better job of that as a social worker or a public schoolteacher.
Speaking of teachers, every governor and every candidate for governor is an expert on education. They all promise to make the schools better, some by spending more money, some by spending less.
Sometimes, the guys who get elected promising to spend more actually spend less. It doesn’t seem to matter to them or the voters.
Maybe these candidates for governor dream of someday becoming president. Maybe they just want to see their portraits hang in the state Capitol. Maybe they like seeing their names in the newspaper, even if it means their wives and children lose their privacy.
Whatever it is, my buddy doesn’t understand it and neither do I.
People who run for public office, especially high public office, are simply different.
Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe not.