In what is likely to be one of his last major addresses as governor, Gov. Pat Quinn on Tuesday choked back tears in an emotional farewell speech at the City Club of Chicago, where he reflected on his six years as the state’s chief executive officer.
Quinn, whose final day in office is Monday, became emotional when he recalled finding a written tribute to his late father, who served in the U.S. Navy. He spoke before a packed audience at Maggiano’s Banquets in the Loop.
“I thought it was important to have a model to serve as governor as, so I picked my father,” a raspy-voiced Quinn said, pausing frequently between words.
Then he read the words his father’s commanding officer had written years ago:
“Patrick J. Quinn is one of the finest men with whom I have ever worked. Extremely capable in his work. He was at all times cheerful, earnest, cooperative, frank and honest. His personal character is beyond reproach. He is liked and admired by all of his associates.”
“So that’s what I try to do in my public life,” said Quinn, barely able to speak before clearing his throat. “And I look forward to many years to come.”
After his formal remarks, Quinn addressed the media, saying he expects state Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, to circulate a bill during a special session this week that would put on the 2016 ballot a special election for Illinois Comptroller — an idea opposed by Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner.
Rauner announced his choice for comptroller, Leslie Munger, on Monday. The vacancy was created by the death of Republican Judy Baar Topinka.
Quinn also said he hoped that lawmakers would heed the will of voters and pass a statewide hike to the minimum wage.
aQuinn said his office will release a written report on Monday detailing his six years as governor. He held up what he viewed as his key accomplishments: expanding health care coverage in Illinois, signing same-sex marriage legislation into law and abolishing the death penalty.
Quinn also referenced ethics reforms, including signing a law that imposed limits on campaign contributions. It was in his most recent, bloody battle for re-election that he faced an onslaught of campaign spending by Rauner. The Republican’s self-funding triggered an end to the fund-raising caps that had been imposed in the race. Rauner went on to win the Nov. 4 election. On Tuesday, Quinn made a veiled reference to Rauner’s wealth.
“We cannot allow a flood of powerful money to take over our democracy. It still is government of the people,” Quinn said. ”Everybody — even those of limited means.”