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A crowing Gov. Quinn eyes re-election chances

Gov. PQuinn  |  Sun-TImes Medifile photo

Gov. Pat Quinn | Sun-TImes Media file photo

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Updated: December 13, 2012 10:23AM

My mom single-handedly brought in Iowa for Barack Obama. At least that’s what she was telling Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn on Wednesday night at Yoshi’s Cafe. She proudly worked the volunteer phone banks last weekend, exhorting Hawkeye state voters to turn out for the president.

The governor astutely quipped, “Looks like Laura’s mom delivered Iowa,” as he opened his remarks as headliner at a post-election dinner at the Lake View restaurant. Martinis and vino flowed as Quinn mixed with the crowd of 80 election-fatigued, Democratic-leaning diners celebrating a sweeping electoral victory. Cornish game hen, red snapper and conversation and a little crowing were on the menu.

I interviewed Quinn about his post-election reflections and what’s ahead for 2014. He is sure to run for re-election. He also is sure to face challengers from both sides of the aisle.

He brushed that aside.

“There’s going to be an election campaign two years hence, but we’ve got to solve problems now. If you want to be governor of Illinois, you have to have a tough hide,” Quinn declared.

Last Tuesday’s election returns suggest that any Republican who hopes to vanquish Quinn must toe a fiscally conservative/socially moderate line. Detours to divisive issues such as abortion, gun control and gay rights are nonstarters.

How about moderate GOP pols such as Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford or State Sen. Kirk Dillard?

They could pull independents and perhaps even some Democrats from Quinn’s column.

In Illinois, Republican “moderate governors may be extinct,” Quinn replied.

The GOP has ducked solutions to the state’s most intractable challenges, he scoffed. “There are a lot of great individuals who want to run for governor, but when it comes to solving problems now, there’s a lot of timid souls,” he said. “They don’t want to deal with pension reform or prison reform.”

Quinn made a fresh appeal to reform Illinois’ employee retirement system, hemorrhaging from an $83 billion unfunded pension liability.

He is calling on the Illinois General Assembly to fix the pension crisis in the upcoming veto session.

And Quinn said he’s “not opposed to a reasonable casino in the city of Chicago,” but he reiterated his call for tougher regulation of gambling interests.

He vetoed a casino bill because it was deeply flawed, he said.

“I have talked today to some of the leaders about this issue,” he said, adding that he hopes for a new deal “over the next couple of months.”

Ironically, the election may leave Quinn with less leverage. The Democratic Party won enough seats to ensure veto-proof majorities in both houses in 2013, handing more power to House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton.

And the “other” Madigan? Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is considering a primary challenge to Quinn. She was all over the TVs on election night.

“I get along with everybody,” Quinn said, adding that he has worked with Lisa Madigan on many issues. “We’ll see how that develops.”

I can’t wait.

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