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Kurt Summers ‘open to all options,’ including bid for governor

Chicago Treasurer Kurt Summers attends the Democrat Day rally at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield. | Tina Sfondeles/Sun-Times

SPRINGFIELD — Chicago City Treasurer Kurt Summers, who is considered a potential City Hall contender, was working the Illinois State Fair on Thursday, with an eye on the 2018 governor’s race.

Summers is “open to all options,” a source close to the treasurer said, including a potential run for governor. Summers was appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel after Stephanie Neely abruptly resigned in 2014. He also served as Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s chief of staff before leaving to join Grosvenor Capital Management, run by an Emanuel friend, Michael Sacks.

Summers spent most of Wednesday in Springfield attending fundraisers, while also conducting outreach efforts and establishing relationships, the source said.

Summers has about $221,000 in his campaign fund, and he has a fundraiser planned next week at a Pullman golf course. A golf and food ticket is $350.

Summers wouldn’t say on the record what his future might hold, indicating he’s “having the time” of his life in Chicago as a first-term city treasurer.

“I promised my wife that we’d feel out how this fits together and whether or not we enjoy it, and turns out so far I love it. If I continue to love it and I see opportunities to do greater good for a greater number of people, then I’ll certainly consider those,” Summers said at the Democrat Day rally.

But he said it’s “irresponsible” to look too far down the line considering the problems in Chicago and in the state: “It doesn’t respect the situation that we’re in.”

When asked if any members of the Democratic Party had spoken to him about his interest for higher office, Summer said “those kinds of conversations happen all the time.”

Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin’s name has been floating around as a potential challenger to Rauner. And he has said he’ll wait until after the November elections to make a decision. If he chooses to run, Summers may not go up against such a well-known and established competitor.

Still, Summers was critical of Rauner on Thursday, saying the governor’s reform agenda “isn’t supported by real economics.”

“I haven’t talked to a single significant employer who said, ‘I can’t continue to be in Illinois because you all have strong unions there.’ I haven’t talked to a single significant employer who said, ‘I can’t be in Illinois because you’re raising the minimum wage.’ I think the work[ers’] compensation issue is a legitimate one that I’ve heard concerns about, and I think reform has been on the table and there has been some movement there,” Summers said. “And there’s more that can be done. But most of the ‘Turnaround Agenda’ is ideology, and it’s not based on economic fact and practice.”

Summers said Kraft Heinz, ConAgra, and McDonald’s moving to Chicago is an indication that some businesses aren’t fleeing the state, a claim Rauner has made throughout his campaign and during his term.

“I think that his Turnaround Agenda isn’t supported by real economics and people who really employ people in Illinois,” he said.

Summers, who lives on the South Side, said he has some ties to central and southern Illinois: His wife graduated from Southern Illinois University, where she played tennis, and he said he spent plenty of time in Urbana because several members of his family attended the University of Illinois.