Former Gov. Pat Quinn joins crowded race for mayor

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Former Gov. Pat Quinn announced Thursday that he’ll run for mayor of Chicago.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

Former Gov. Pat Quinn on Thursday joined the crowded field of candidates — including his own former running mate — seeking to deny Mayor Lori Lightfoot a second term.

Quinn, 73, supported Lightfoot over County Board President Toni Preckwinkle in the 2019 mayoral runoff. He spoke at a Lightfoot campaign rally. He gave her a campaign contribution. He put a Lightfoot sign on the front lawn of his Galewood home.

But that was before Lightfoot reneged on her campaign promise to fight for and abide by a two-term limit for the mayor of Chicago and proposed selling corporate naming rights to Soldier Field to bankroll a $2 billion domed stadium renovation.

Now, Quinn calls Lightfoot a huge disappointment, in part, because she broke the “solemn promise” to limit herself and future mayors to two terms.

“The 10 biggest cities all have term limits on the mayor. Mayor Lightfoot said she was for term limits on herself. And then, when she got in office, she’s not delivered. That’s not good,” the oldest candidate in the mayoral race told the Chicago Sun-Times.

“When I became governor, we had all the problems of [George] Ryan and [Rod] Blagojevich before me. And I said we need to have a recall amendment to allow the voters of Illinois to recall a governor who’s on the wrong track. We got that done. … When you make a promise about yourself and your office, you should keep it.”

That’s not Quinn’s only big beef with Lightfoot. So is her inability to, as he put it, “bring people together and not divide folks.”

A lifelong Chicagoan who has lived in the same West Side home for 39 years, Quinn also took aim at violent crime and the perception of it in Chicago. Which is why he believes in empowering voters to petition their government to put binding referendums on the ballot.

“Voters can give ideas that, maybe, aldermen and the mayor haven’t come up with. Around the country [on Nov. 8], municipal and statewide initiatives were very creative with issues on public safety and gun safety. We need to have that in Chicago and Illinois,” Quinn said.

“We not only have crime on the streets but crime in the suites. You have Commonwealth Edison corrupting our legislative process for a decade in Illinois and the city has an opportunity, through its franchise agreement to really get the kind of refunds for customers that they deserve after the company itself admitted it was committing bribery. What have they done in the franchise agreement?”

Quinn is the second white candidate and the 11th major challenger overall seeking to turn Lightfoot into a one-termer.

Asked why he would join a field that includes former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas, his former running mate, Quinn said, “We’re friends. We’ve been friends, probably since the 1980s. But I believe in competition and people having maybe different points of view.”

Over the years, Quinn has enjoyed his greatest successes as a political gadfly. He led petition drives that reduced the size of the Illinois House and created the Citizens Utility Board.

His record of actually running things is a bit murkier.

As the “accidental governor” who made the leap from lieutenant governor after Gov. Rod Blagojevich was impeached, Quinn’s $54.5 million Neighborhood Recovery Initiative to fund anti-violence efforts in the Chicago area was dogged by accusations of clout and political favoritism.

On Thursday, Quinn insisted that politics played no role in awarding anti-violence grants, which are even more prevalent today with the avalanche of federal stimulus funds.

“The program worked very well. It helped save lives. As a matter of fact, after I left and some of the programs Rauner ended, he had more violence than ever,” Quinn said of his Republican successor.

“It was a program that was designed, as the ones are today, to prevent violence from happening and to give, especially young people, things to do that were positive and not negative.”

Mayoral challenger Brandon Johnson has argued that Chicago cannot “continue to rely upon the vestiges of the past to take us into the future.”

Quinn, who still plays regular games of pickup basketball at Union Park, laughed off the thinly veiled reference to his age.

“They said that when I ran for lieutenant governor 20 years ago. In 2002, one of my opponents sent out a direct mail piece and had me dressed in a 1976 leisure suit. I got elected lieutenant governor. Then I got elected governor. I’m used to that. I’m used to boo-vations from politicians,” he said.

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November 17, 2022 at 01:47PM

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