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Raoul for gov? Spoiler, not winner

Updated: September 20, 2013 6:11AM

For a Democrat, the black vote in the 2014 gubernatorial primary is crucial. In the two-way contest between Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Bill Daley, the former White House chief of staff/banker, there is no contest.

The Daley name carries no water with African-American voters. We have been the horse pulling the plow for Quinn. He can’t win without black folks.

Set match point. Game over.

But now, speculation is building that a late-entry challenge could thwart Quinn’s re-nomination hopes.

Talk is cheap. These days, Illinois is full of talk about State Sen. Kwame Raoul, who is seriously considering getting into the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

Indeed, Raoul, 48, is a rising policymaking star. The uber-ambitious, political hot property is chairing the Illinois General Assembly’s pension conference committee, assigned to hammer out a solution to the worst financial crisis in state history.

Raoul says he is seriously considering a run but won’t decide until after his committee’s work is done. And when would that be?

Meanwhile, he’s got a tidy campaign kitty of nearly $500,000. A polished lawyer and the son of Haitian immigrants, he boasts an impressive and progressive track record. He’s on solid paper with the state’s powerful labor unions. He’s a top comrade to state Senate President John Cullerton and a close ally of Toni Preckwinkle, the powerful Cook County Board president.

Now the consultants and operatives are whispering in Raoul’s ear, and telling him what he wants to hear.

You can do it! They urge: You are a black legislator who occupies the state Senate seat once held by Barack Obama. You are respected by Chicago’s black leadership and progressive activists. You’re a WTTW regular, gee whiz!

You are smooth and suave, you’ve got a 1,000-watt smile, they coo. You can raise bucks and show off your policy resume, they wheedle. You can drum up enthusiasm among black voters in Cook County and downstate. Geez, you even have a funny name. Look where that got Obama?

Where will it get Raoul?

Two words: stalking horse.

There’s nothing Daley can do to lure black voters away from Quinn. Raoul could.

Raoul’s big ego may be ballooning. He may believe he can win. But he has little executive or administrative experience. He’s never run for statewide office. And about that conference committee? A chronology:

July 8: Raoul told Illinois Issues magazine that he was “working methodically” and would have initial cost savings estimates by “next week.”

July 9: “Raoul has said lawmakers hope to have something to consider by the end of the week.”

July 10: Raoul said his committee “could reach a consensus on a deal by mid-August.” Chicago Sun-Times.

Aug. 6: “He says his team should be finished writing a compromise reform bill by September.” WLS-TV.

Aug. 9: “Chairman Raoul still can’t say when his committee would have a product to present for consideration.” WLS-TV.

Aug. 12: “Raoul was equally vague after the [committee] meeting … .” Springfield Journal Register.

So, what’s really behind all that urging, cooing and wheedling?

Raoul can’t win, but he could be a spoiler.

That’s the role Bill Daley and Co. are praying he’ll play.

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