Call it the comeback campaign.
Seven years after leaving politics following a loss to Rod Blagojevich, former Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan on Tuesday formally launched another campaign for governor.
Among his challenges: reminding voters just which Ryan he is.
He's not former Gov. George Ryan, who attracted world attention by clearing Illinois' death row and then being sent to prison for corruption. And he's not former U.S. Senate candidate Jack Ryan, who saw his political career crumble after he was caught lying about allegations of sexual misconduct with his actress wife.
Now an attorney in Elmhurst, Ryan said the nearly eight years with a Democrat as the state's executive has put the state in a precarious financial situation.
He promised not to raise income or sales taxes if elected governor, despite budget problems so severe that next year's budget deficit could reach $12 billion.
He claimed to be able to balance the budget without a tax increase, but wouldn't explain how. He promised to appoint a commission to study spending cuts and said future pension costs should be reduced, but that wouldn't resolve the current budget problem
Ryan may be best known to the public for his tragic personal life: multiple bouts of cancer, his 12-year-old daughter's death from a brain tumor, his wife's near-fatal heart attack and his son's suicide in 2007.
He refused to comment on the most notorious case of his legal career, the murder of 10-year-old Jeanine Nicarico. Ryan repeatedly prosecuted two men who wound up on death row but were later cleared of the crime. He pursued the two even after another man confessed.
A video on Ryan's campaign Web site alludes to his troubles: "He's faced his share of challenges ... but he never quit and he never let us down," the narrator says.
Ryan faced questions Tuesday about his link to the scandal that led to Blagojevich being arrested and forced out of office. A longtime Ryan friend, Stuart Levine, has admitted to fraud and money laundering in a scheme to shake down investment companies that wanted to do business with the state teachers retirement fund.
Ryan is not accused of any wrongdoing. He said his friendship with Levine shouldn't raise doubts about his judgment and he would not return political money Levine raised for him in the past.
"My judgment of Stu at the time was that he was a good man,'' Ryan said. "What are you going to do when you don't know? He had a secret life."
Ryan faces a crowded field in the Republican primary, but he said his statewide political experience and the challenges he's overcome in his personal life make him the best candidate.
Other candidates include Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington, Sen. Kirk Dillard and political newcomer Adam Andrzejewski, both of Hinsdale, and DuPage County Board President Bob Schillerstrom of Naperville. Chicago-based candidates are former Illinois Republican Party chairman Andy McKenna and political consultant Dan Proft.