On Wednesday, the controversy over the deaths of 13 veterans at a facility in downstate Illinois roiled the gubernatorial race. On Thursday, the attorney general’s race was also affected by the issue.
Former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, who is running for attorney general after current Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced she would be leaving the office at the end of her term, promised a new veteran’s home in Chicago eight years ago, but it is still not completed.
Quinn has spoken out for veterans for years, but there are new questions tonight amid the controversy in Quincy over whether or not he is to blame for the incomplete project.
When asked about the controversy, Quinn directed the blame at current Governor Bruce Rauner.
“When I left office it was on target, we had a groundbreaking, and we went forward,” Quinn said. “I got the funding for it and I think that it’s very important that there would be a veteran’s home in the Chicago area.”
Although Quinn defended his handling of the slow-moving project, his opponents in the attorney general’s race still have questions that they want answered.
“You’ve got to keep your promises,” State Sen. Kwame Raoul said. “The bottom line is, we have to make an investment to take care of our veterans.”
Quinn first promised the home in his 2009 State of the State speech, and mentioned it again in 2013. Work wasn’t started on the project until 2014, just two months before he lost in his bid for re-election, and since then the project came to a stop.
The state’s budget stalemate contributed to the laggard pace of the project, but Governor Rauner’s spokesman says that the project is “finally moving forward.”
The issue has re-emerged after a WBEZ report exposed the deaths of 13 people due to a series of outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease at a veterans’ home in downstate Quincy. Some officials are calling for the facility to be shutdown all together, and some, including gubernatorial candidates J.B. Pritzker and Chris Kennedy, are calling for an investigation into Governor Rauner’s handling of the situation.
State Senator Tom Cullerton is calling for an audit of the facility, and he announced that he will call a hearing to examine care practices at the home.
Governor Rauner’s administration defended its handling of the situation, saying that they “quickly brought in the Centers for Disease Control and followed their recommendations.”