Opinion: Odds On Your Next Governor

It's never too early to start handicapping the 2014 field. Here are the candidates that Ward Room expects to see in the next gubernatorial race. 


DAN RUTHERFORD, 5-2: Rutherford has wanted this job for a long time. In 2006, when he was a state senator from Pontiac, he ran for Secretary of State, which was the training ground for the last two Republican governors, Jim Edgar and George Ryan. Rutherford lost that race, but was elected state treasurer in 2010. In his last week as a state senator, Rutherford made a politically shrewd move by casting the only Republican vote in favor of the civil unions bill. “It’s the right thing to do,” Rutherford said. Bill Brady’s recent defeat had demonstrated that a social conservative cannot win a statewide election in Illinois. The Democrats can’t pin that label on Rutherford now. It may cause the 56-year-old bachelor trouble in the Republican primary, though. As state treasurer, he’s in an ideal position to criticize the Democrats’ fiscal irresponsibility, but has shown more interest in cooperating with Gov. Pat Quinn on pension reform.

KIRK DILLARD, 4-1: Dillard has also been preparing for the governorship his entire career. He was chief of staff to Gov. Jim Edgar, mentions the governor in every public appearance, and models himself after Edgar’s moderate Republicanism. In the state senate, Dillard worked with Barack Obama on an ethics reform bill, then cut an ad for him during the 2008 presidential primary. Conservatives were not pleased. They may be even less pleased with an Obama-philic nominee in 2014. Dillard lost the 2010 primary to Bill Brady by 193 votes. Losing to Brady, who lost to Quinn, is another knock against him.

BILL BRADY, 15-1: All over the Midwest, in 2010, Republicans were taking over governorships from Democrats. It happened in Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa and Ohio. But not in Illinois, where Brady blew what should have been a sure-thing election. Quinn eviscerated Brady for his conservative positions on abortion, gun control and gay rights. Brady, meanwhile, made no attempt to woo Cook County voters, preferring to demonize “Chicago politicians.” 2014 will be an even better year for Republicans, but Brady has had his turn.

JIM OBERWEIS, 1000-1: After two years of alienating his state Senate colleagues, don’t think he won’t run.


LISA MADIGAN, 4-1: Before any Democrat runs for governor, senator or attorney general, he has to ask, “What’s Lisa doing?” Madigan is better known for her potential than for her accomplishments. The White House tried to recruit her for a Senate campaign in 2010, but she didn’t want to move her young family to Washington, D.C. It’s been assumed that her father, House Speaker Michael Madigan, has been grooming her for the governorship. But Madigan may be more ambitious for his daughter than his daughter is for herself. Lisa Madigan can be the Eternal General if she chooses, and so far, that's what she's chosen.

PAT QUINN, 5-1: It’s hard to believe that Pat Quinn can win another election. He raised the state income tax from 3 percent to 5 percent, and Illinois is still billions of dollars behind on its bills, has the worst credit rating in the nation and was named the third-worst state for business in a survey of CEOs. But Quinn recently showed he’s trying to solve the problem by raising the state’s retirement age to 67. Quinn is one of the state’s longest-serving politicians, with a career going back to the 1970s. He’s won four statewide elections. So it’s also impossible to count him out, either.

RAHM EMANUEL, 6-1: Of course Rahm Emanuel wants to be president. Rahm Emanuel wants as much power as he can amass in one lifetime, and there’s no more powerful office than the presidency. No mayor has ever been elected to the presidency, so Emanuel would have to get there from the governorship. The unions hate him, which will make the Democratic primary difficult. And Downstaters hate Chicago, which is why no Chicago mayor has been elected governor since Edward Dunne, in 1912. On the other hand, Rahm would outspend everyone else, so maybe he can buy the governorship.

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