As you can imagine, it's a bittersweet time for Governor Quinn and his staff. He spent his final day in Springfield with the lawmakers yesterday, and while he will not be at the Rauner inauguration, he will be at his Chicago office Monday morning until noon.
NBC Chicago’s political reporter Mary Ann Ahern spoke with Quinn in a one-on-one Friday.
After more than 30 years in public office, Quinn made it clear he has no plans to fade away, but will he run for public office again?
On future plans:
“I know what I’m going to do starting at Monday at noon and I’m going to clean up a lot of the clutter, number one. Number two; look for causes that help lots and lots of people where as an organizer I can help the cause. I really feel that that’s the strongest force in our democracy, when people ban together for a cause that they believe in. There are many causes dealing with health, the economy, helping consumers, making sure our veterans are treated right, all these are matters that need constant attention and I’ll volunteer to help."
On campaign finance:
"I think when you work hard in an election, especially this year where the other side spent almost $75 million, our campaign raised almost $30 million which I thought was unbelievable but we were less than half the other side. I did sign a law to put limits on campaign finance donations which I thought was a very important ethical law that we passed over the last six years. The other side really used the loophole to blow those limits and I don’t think that was a good thing for our state. Democracy is one person, one vote. When you have people with great amounts of money flooding into the halls of democracy it can lead to trouble."
On medical marijuana:
"Well there are agencies, two in particular, that have to review the license applications and I told them to take as long as necessary to make sure they do it right. Everything has to be done right. That’s my philosophy in life, my mother and father taught me that and I think it’s a pretty good philosophy. It’s up to the agencies [if it will be finished before my term is up] to make sure they do their job. Under the law the agencies, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Professional Responsibility, review the applications and its their duty is to look at everything and to make a decision that’s in the public interest. I signed the law to make this possible and I know first-hand the number of the people who need this medicine. Other states have done it as well but we want to make sure we learn lessons from other states and do things right. I think it’s the only way to go. If it takes a little bit longer for each agency to do its job right, then so be it."
On reflecting on his legacy:
“I wanted to be a humble governor and proud of our people. I think humility is a virtue and in politics maybe that needs to be practiced more by everyone. That’s what I tried to do; I said that on the first day I got sworn in. It was a difficult time, a moment in Illinois history where there was an ethical crisis, an economic crisis and a fiscal crisis in our budget. We’ve had to navigate through that, there’s lots of work left to be done but we’re in a much better place today than we were 6 years ago and I think that’s a job well done.
On what he’s most proud of:
I think getting Illinois through trough a very difficult turbulent time where our state is in a much better place and also helping the economy,. We tried to fight very hard for everyday people who work, raise kids, and live from paycheck to paycheck. I wanted to be their champion. I think it’s always important to be fair in government and when all is said and done the governor has to be the goalie for fairness for everyday people. There’s powerful interest and lots of money to try and hurt people and you have to stop that and I’ve tried to do that every step of the way.
On Michelle Obama campaigning for him twice:
"She’s a really special person, as is President Obama. They’re very good friends, they believe in the common good, they work very hard. The president, he got sworn in about 8 days before I did and he had to take in a whole nation who needed confidence in the economy and straightened things out and I tried to follow the example the President set of just working hard every day.
On the failed anti-violence program: I think Barbara Shaw, who was in charge of the program outlined what the purpose was. Obviously there was some mistakes made and that’s why I had to change that agency from overseeing one program to another agency. But it’s up to law enforcement to make sure that everything is done right."
On the progress made under his administration:
"I think we’ve made great strides. Six years ago Illinois was a laughing stock across the country; we were on “Saturday Night Live” almost every week with our former governor and the person before him was in jail so I had to straighten that out and navigate our state through a very difficult time. We’ve passed strong ethics laws, we enforced those laws. We now have recall with the respect to the office of governor; I thought that was an important constitutional amendment so I think we’re in a better place economically and also ethically. But progress is always continuous. You have to keep on pushing. You’re never perfect, you have to keep on working."