The dazzle of celebrity prompted grins — and a few eye rolls — from grim-faced Loop commuters Monday morning, as a campaigning Gov. Pat Quinn showed up with his actor pal Martin Sheen.
Quinn and Sheen shook hands and posed for photographs with commuters streaming out of Millennium Station downtown.
Asked whether a Hollywood actor would help or hurt Quinn, who is in a close race with Republican hopeful Bruce Rauner, Sheen said: “You can’t confuse celebrity with
credibility. But it’s not like I showed up yesterday. I’ve been involved with social justice and with the Democrats most of my adult life.”
Quinn wasn’t taking questions from the press — just the voting public.
Most folks who stopped to talk to Sheen weren’t interested in his politics.
“I watched ‘The West Wing’ this morning!” said South Side fan, Jackie Faniel.On the show, Sheen played crusading liberal president Josiah Bartlet.
“This morning?” Sheen said, incredulously.
Faniel was pleased that her hero actually looked a lot like he does on TV.
“I knew he wasn’t that tall,” she added.
It was Sheen’s second consecutive day of campaigning with Quinn. On Sunday, two attended Mass together at St. Pius V. Parish in the Pilsen neighborhood. Then they held a news conference, advocating for one of Pat Quinn’s campaign cornerstones: a non-binding referendum asking voters if the minimum wage should be increased to $10 an hour.
Quinn says he has long-supported such an increase. But the referendum is also part of his electoral strategy, highlighting the gulf between him and his wealthy Republican opponent, venture capitalist Bruce Rauner.
Quinn “reminds us that one heart with courage is a majority,” Sheen said Sunday, repeating one of his often-evoked speech lines.
Then Sheen, who portrayed the president on the NBC series “The West Wing,” launched into a jeremiad reminiscent of a script from that show.
“We search for something in our lives worth fighting for,” Sheen said, drawing a parallel with Quinn’s advocacy of a minimum wage increase. “Because when we find it, we will have found a way to unite the will-of-the-spirit with the work of the flesh. And the world will discover fire for the second time.”
Sheen later said he and Quinn have been friends for several years. He also called Quinn “one of my heroes,” citing Quinn’s signing of a law that abolished the death penalty in Illinois. That law came after a lengthy moratorium on the practice, put in place by former Republican Gov. George Ryan.
Since Quinn signed the law, the two have bonded over “the fight for social justice,” said Sheen, who added that Quinn is “in a tough fight, but he’s going to win.”
On Sunday, Mike Schrimpf, a spokesman for Rauner, ridiculed Quinn’s minimum wage referendum.
“Here’s the bottom line: Bruce has a plan to raise the minimum wage and Pat Quinn doesn’t,” Schrimpf said, alluding to the fact that the referendum is an advisory measure that is non-binding even if passed.
Schrimpf said Rauner has a plan to raise the minimum wage. But the details are vague, calling for workers’ compensation and tort reforms, without delving into specifics. Rauner’s plan also does not stipulate how high he would raise the minimum wage. Earlier in his campaign, Rauner waffled on the issue, saying he favored lowering the wage.