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Marin: Vallas is a gutsy choice by Quinn

Paul Vallas

Paul Vallas

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Updated: December 11, 2013 6:41AM



You’ve got to hand it to Pat Quinn.

The governor made a bold and ballsy choice by picking Paul Vallas as his lieutenant governor running mate for 2014.

And nobody knows that better than Illinois Republicans.

Like, for instance, GOP candidate Bruce Rauner who, according to a highly informed source, considered recruiting Vallas to be his lieutenant governor. And sought Vallas’ endorsement.

Rauner’s campaign, however, denies it and issued this reaction to the Quinn-Vallas announcement:

“Picking Paul Vallas,” said Rauner in a written statement Friday, “confirms that Pat Quinn is running scared. Quinn understands that Bruce Rauner has a proven record on school reform and is the only candidate who will shake up the status quo in Springfield.”

If Rauner did in fact come courting Vallas, he would be hardly the first Republican to think of wooing the former CEO of the Chicago Public Schools only to see him slip through his fingers. Let’s dial back to 2010 when Illinois’ star-crossed GOP was trying to convert Vallas to their side of the aisle in hopes he’d run for governor or president of the Cook County Board. And breathe some life into their lifeless party.

At the time, Rep. Tom Cross, who is now a candidate for state treasurer, told me: “He’d be great for Republicans, great for Cook County with impeccable credentials, substance and integrity.” And Andy McKenna, former state GOP chairman, who himself became a candidate for governor in 2010, told me, “We certainly respect Paul Vallas. . . . He has demonstrated he knows how to administer a complex governmental entity.”

Well, well.

Suffice it say the GOP thinks Vallas, a political maverick who is more libertarian than hard Democratic party line, has crossover appeal.

It probably doesn’t hurt that then-mayor Richard M. Daley fired Vallas in 2001 after it was clear to everyone that his school’s CEO was vastly overshadowing him. Given Daley’s poor approval rating these days, consider that a plus as well.

But Vallas, 60, has plenty of negatives.

Let’s start with the fact that he and Pat Quinn are of the same generation, gender and race. In leaving Stephanie Neely, Chicago’s attractive African-American treasurer at the altar, the governor jilted diversity.

And expect sparks to fly with organized labor, especially the Chicago Teachers Union, who won’t give Quinn any love for a Vallas choice given Vallas’ support of charter schools.

Moreover, since he left Chicago to run educational systems in Philadelphia, New Orleans and Connecticut, Vallas arrives with a mixed report card of significant successes amid lingering substantial problems. Though it’s true that Vallas came within 25,000 votes of defeating Rod Blagojevich in the 2002 gubernatorial primary even though Blago poured $8 million into the race vs. Vallas’ puny $400,000, that was a decade ago. Do voters still remember?

Maybe the biggest question of all has to do with the quirky interpersonal dynamics of Quinn and Vallas.

Vallas has never played a very good second banana.

As candidate forums go, these two going head to head would make for the best debate of all.

Email: cmarin@suntimes.com

Twitter: @CarolMarin



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