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Bill Daley drops out of governor’s race; ‘He decided it wasn’t what he wanted to do’

Bill Daley July. | NatashKorecki~Sun-Times files

Bill Daley in July. | Natasha Korecki~Sun-Times files

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Updated: October 18, 2013 6:31AM



In a stunning political development, former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley is dropping out of the governor’s race because, as one longtime political friend put it Monday, he didn’t have the “fire in the belly.”

When asked if he was throwing his hat out of the ring, Daley said emphatically:

“Yes.”

Daley, the brother and son of former Chicago mayors, scheduled a news conference for Tuesday morning at the Union League Club, where his spokesman said the former Commerce Secretary would explain his decision to voters.

“Faced with the prospect of five or nine years to try to dig the state out of the mess that it’s in, Bill decided that’s not what he’s wanting to do at age 65,” campaign spokesman Pete Giangreco said.

Giangreco denied that fund-raising, health or Gov. Pat Quinn being too formidable a candidate were factors in Daley’s decision.

“None of the above,” Giangreco said.

Daley’s exit comes just 98 days after he announced : “I’m in this race, OK?”

His reversal leaves Quinn, regarded in one poll last fall as the least popular governor in the country, with no major opposition from within his own party and a splintered field of candidates on the Republican side.

“We respect Bill Daley’s decision,” the Quinn campaign said late Monday in a prepared statement. “A divisive primary would have only helped Republicans who want to take this state backwards and undo the important progress we have made.”

Before Daley’s surprise departure, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan previously opted not to challenge Quinn in the Democratic primary. The governor’s only remaining challenger now is former CeaseFire director Tio Hardiman.

Daley had been expected to mount a vigorous challenge for governor because of his familiar last name as the brother of Richard M. Daley and son of Richard J. Daley and his ties to both President Barack Obama and the region’s business community.

Granted, Quinn reported having $2.3 million in his political fund as of June 30, compared to the $794,338 Daley had. But since then, Daley had raised cash at an impressive clip, raking in more than $370,000 to Quinn’s $10,000-plus.

A poll published in July by the Capitol Fax political newsletter had suggested a potentially tight race between Quinn and Daley, with the governor holding a narrow 38- to 33-percent lead.

But whatever pluses Daley brought to the campaign, he had his negatives.

He was not well known outside of Chicago, had not sewn up any significant organizational support within the Democratic Party and faced the unknown political calculus of having his nephew, Richard J. “R.J.” Vanecko, indicted for involuntary manslaughter in connection with the death of David Koschman.

Daley also could have faced questions for his handling of the White House during Obama’s first term.

In “The Message: The Reselling of President Obama,” a new book on the 2008 presidential campaign, political reporter Richard Wolffe quoted one campaign aide describing Daley as a “walking disaster” whose 2011-2012 West Wing stint was “chaotic,” according to Monday’s Washington Post.

Quinn, meanwhile, has spent the summer staging a political turnaround with his moves to withhold legislative salaries, to rewrite concealed-carry legislation and, of late, to wage war with the Capitol architect over a $50 million statehouse renovation he likened to the “Palace of Versailles.”

Quinn, who helped push through a temporary income tax increase in early 2011, has suffered from lackluster poll numbers, but he had been expected to win the party’s endorsement at the state Democratic Party’s slate-making session on Sunday.

While some sources in the Quinn camp said they were not surprised by Monday’s development, Daley made some recent moves that signaled this was a sudden decision, including hiring a campaign manager just 12 days ago.

State Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo) said a campaign staffer for Daley contacted him on Monday asking for phone numbers and names for other elected officials from whom Daley could get support.

“I’m stunned. I’m absolutely stunned,” said Franks, who had been supporting Daley. “I talked to him last week about vetting candidates.”

Political strategist David Axelrod talked to Daley Monday night after the announcement.

“He decided it wasn’t what he wanted to do. He didn’t have the fire in the belly,” Axelrod said Daley had told him. “Running for public office requires a total emotional commitment he didn’t feel he could give. The process of running and being in the arena persuaded him of that. Running for public office is a demanding thing. Running against a tough and pugnacious opponent is an even tougher challenge. He’s been out there, he’s been running over the course of the things that required and thinking about how he wanted to spend the next years of his life.”

A veteran Democrat who asked to remain anonymous said Quinn, with his denigrating putdowns of Daley as a “millionaire banker,” already had the former White House aide politically cornered.

“He knows he can’t win. Quinn has already defined him. I know folks who were with him Downstate when he was supposed to be campaigning. He was just standing there. He wasn’t even working the crowd. He was waiting for people to come to him ... . He thought it would all fall into place, and it hasn’t.”



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