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Bill Daley: ‘I’m in this race’

Bill Daley. Oct. 5 2011 file pho(AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari File)

Bill Daley. Oct. 5, 2011 file photo, (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari, File)

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Updated: September 16, 2013 9:58PM



William Daley, one of the best-known names in Illinois politics, formally announced Tuesday he’s dipping his toe in the gubernatorial waters with the creation of an exploratory committee for governor.

By doing so, Daley, who has flirted with the idea publicly for months, now has a mechanism to raise money for what could be a three-way primary for Illinois governor.

This is the farthest Daley has ever gone with regard to a run for office. However, he still remains in the shallow end of the political pool by not filing full-on for candidacy at a time when Gov. Pat Quinn says he’s in for re-election, when Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has been hitting up big-name donors for months and when Republicans Dan Rutherford and Bruce Rauner already have formal campaigns under way.

On Tuesday, Daley insisted he was all-in.

“I’m in this race, OK?” Daley, 64, said in a Sun-Times interview Tuesday. “Yes, it’s an exploratory committee, because that’s how you start. You don’t run, you walk.”

Daley wasted no time in launching salvos at Quinn and the legislative meltdown in Springfield by session’s end.

“It was disgraceful, what happened. It’s not as if this all creeped up on us,” Daley said.

Daley pointed to the tax increase under Quinn, one of governor’s biggest political weaknesses, outside of the inability to overhaul pensions. Daley laid the blame on Quinn for the legislature’s inability to find consensus on marriage equality and casinos.

“No doubt that the Legislature has to pass legislation but it’s the governor’s job — it’s his job to forge compromises and alliances and get it done. That’s not the legislative leaders’ job,” Daley said. “There’s only one guy who is on top of the mountain who is elected state-wide.”

Quinn’s campaign responded by saying the governor has championed passing pension reform and marriage equality and “signed into law the largest capital construction program in state history, which is putting hundreds of thousands of people back to work building roads, schools and bridges.”

Daley’s reluctance to formally file for candidacy already has political observers raising doubts.

“You don’t jump into the water up to your ankles,” said Paul Green, director of the Institute for Politics at Roosevelt University. “I still think he’s doing this to get his name out without jumping all the way into the pool. If you’re talking marriage, an exploratory committee is the first date…I still think he’s waiting for the other shoe to drop with Lisa Madigan.”

Daley’s camp is counting on the fact that two major hurdles stand in Lisa Madigan’s way: an elusive legislative solution to Illinois’ $100 billion pension crisis involving the attorney general’s father and the unprecedented concentration of power that would be created if Lisa Madigan is elected governor and her father remains as speaker. If the pension crisis gets solved at next week’s special session or even some time this summer, Lisa Madigan would be free to jump into the race. She doesn’t have to do anything until fall, given her $4 million campaign warchest. And if she announces on that day that her father will retire if she’s elected governor, Lisa Madigan would automatically become the overwhelming frontrunner.

If she doesn’t answer the father-daughter relationship from the outset, however, it would be her Achilles heel throughout the campaign.

“They’ve got to answer this question, upfront, I know it, I sympathize with it,” said Daley, who stated in the past he hasn’t made a statewide run because his brother was mayor and he saw that as a potential conflict. “That was even a step removed from the potential issue that she has. They gotta know that and they gotta figure that out.”

For his part, the Daley name brings with it a double-edged sword.

Daley is synonymous with Chicago, the city that works. His resume is formidable, having been President Barack Obama’s chief of staff and U.S. Commerce Secretary under President Bill Clinton.

Yet, what’s good about his name is what’s bad about it: it is synonymous with Chicago — and all of its ills.

That’s something none too appealing to downstate voters who already harbor resentment over a city-controlled governor’s mansion, not to mention Chicagoans who will see a Daley name on a ballot for the first time since the parking meter debacle under ex-Mayor Richard Daley and since an onslaught of negative publicity surrounding the bungled investigation into Daley nephew R.J. Vanecko.

The City Council just relived the nightmare of former Mayor Daley’s disastrous decision when it approved Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to settle millions in outstanding liabilities with Chicago Parking Meters LLC and swap free neighborhood parking on Sundays for a longer parking day. Emanuel also has done considerable damage to the Daley legacy with all of the mayor’s talk about ethics and school reform, the budget deficit he inherited and about “turning the page” from the “old way” of doing business on a host of fronts.

William Daley said he hopes that voters would judge him on his own record — not for his brother’s or his father’s when the two held a power grip on the mayor’s office for decades. But if he’s to make that argument for himself, he may be hemming himself in for the future when it comes to whether Lisa Madigan would have to be held accountable for the actions of her father, powerful Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago).

Lisa Madigan has not yet announced she’s running but told the Sun-Times recently that it remains in her sights. A staffer on Tuesday reiterated that.

“The Attorney General is seriously considering a run for governor, but her first priority is focusing on her job as Attorney General,” said the staffer, who is close to Lisa Madigan. “In regards to Daley: This is an interesting move given that polls have shown Mr. Daley does not fare well either in a two- or three-way race.”

Previous polls have shown Daley struggling when up again either Lisa Madigan or both Lisa Madigan and Quinn.

Daley has never been a union favorite, largely for his role in pushing the North American Free Trade Agreement through Congress in 1993 at Clinton’s behest. That deal has been credited with driving away low-paying manufacturing jobs, once held by Americans. Moreover, Daley has not built deep inroads within Illinois’ labor movement, with some key union officials in the state having never even met him, enhancing the likelihood of being dismissed by unions outside Chicago as a wealthy city Democrat with a thin labor record and who isn’t viewed as “our guy.”

Contributing: Dave McKinney



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