Consider this resume: aide to a governor; head of The Coalition For Political Honesty; commissioner of the Cook County Board of Tax Appeals; Chicago Revenue Director; Illinois State Treasurer; failed candidate for Secretary of State; failed candidate for U.S. Senate; lieutenant governor; governor.
Sounds like a career politician, right?
Pat Quinn has held all these jobs over the last 37 years, yet he still seems to believe he’s not part of the system. During Thursday night’s WTTW debate with Bill Brady, host Carol Marin asked each candidate whether he’d be willing to serve a single term, so as to focus on solving the state’s fiscal crisis, not on re-election.
“I believe eight is enough,” Quinn said. “I’ve tried to put that on the ballot.”
Yet Quinn refused to limit himself to one more term in office, telling Marin, “I’ll serve four more years and we’ll see what happens.”
If Quinn somehow manages to win two gubernatorial elections, he’ll spend 10 years in office, making him the second longest serving governor in Illinois history, after Big Jim Thompson. He’s for term limits, but “we need to do that by constitutional amendment,” not by officeholders restraining themselves from clinging to office forever.
Later, when the candidates were trying to blame each other for the pension mess, Quinn told Brady, “I wasn’t in Springfield that long. You were in Springfield longer than I was.”
If you add up his service to Gov. Dan Walker, his term as treasurer, and his stints as lieutenant governor and governor, Quinn has been in Springfield for 16 years. Brady has served 18 years as a legislator.
Then, Quinn tried to deny he’d ever worked with his old boss, Rod Blagojevich.
“He never talked to me,” the governor said, to laughter from the studio audience. “I mean, he announced to the world that I was not part of his administration.”
Forgive the governor his denial. He doesn’t see himself as a politician, he sees himself as a reformer. He got into politics to shake up the system. His first big political victory was cutting the size of the General Assembly to 177 to 118, thus firing 59 politicians with one referendum. Even after an entire career spent in government, he still doesn’t consider himself part of the system. He’s the well-intentioned outsider who’s in Springfield to keep an eye on the hacks and provide honest government.
Quinn is an honest man, but his refusal to act like a boss and accept responsibility has been his undoing as governor. He’s spent so much of career fighting The Man that he can’t acknowledge he is The Man. We’d all be better off if he would.