Quinn’s term limit effort hits legal snag, but he says it’s why Rahm dropped out

SHARE Quinn’s term limit effort hits legal snag, but he says it’s why Rahm dropped out
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At a meeting in June, former Gov. Pat Quinn discusses his efforts to pass a binding referendum that would limit the mayor’s reign to two terms. | Fran Spielman/Sun-Times

Former governor Pat Quinn’s drive to get a binding referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot imposing a two-term limit on Chicago mayors suffered a setback this week when a judge tossed out his lawsuit on a technicality.

Undaunted, Quinn vowed to re-file the lawsuit on Friday; that’s allowed because it was dismissed “without prejudice” after he failed to notify the two objectors.

Quinn also upped the ante in his long-running political feud with Mayor Rahm Emanuel — by claiming credit for Emanuel’s decision to choose political retirement over the uphill battle for a third term.

Just days before Emanuel pulled the plug on his re-election campaign, Quinn noted, the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners issued a preliminary ruling that Quinn had gathered more than enough signatures to get on the ballot.

The election board subsequently ruled that the term-limits question would not be on the ballot because it had been crowded out by three non-binding questions approved by the City Council.

That’s the ruling Quinn was appealing when he was tripped up on a technicality.

“They put an enormous armada together to challenge our signatures. This was all under the direction of Jay Rowell, his campaign manager. I saw first-hand what they were doing. They challenged the handwriting of 8,711 people, most of whom lived on the South and West Side,” Quinn said.

Former Gov. Pat Quinn (right) defends the validity of signatures on his petitions seeking a binding referendum to set term limits on Chicago mayors. | Mark Brown / Sun-Times

Former Gov. Pat Quinn (right) defends the validity of signatures on his petitions seeking a binding referendum to set term limits on Chicago mayors.| Mark Brown / Sun-Times

“They were bound and determined to keep this off the ballot with signatures. And when they discovered the Thursday before Labor Day they weren’t gonna succeed, that definitely entered into the mayor’s understanding that this was gonna be on the ballot. He realized that the two terms are enough. That’s what the voters felt. It was gonna be on the ballot and people were gonna vote for it.”

A high-ranking source in the now-being-dismantled Emanuel re-election campaign dismissed Quinn’s argument as a face-saver for the embarrassing legal mistake that got his lawsuit tossed.

Quinn and Emanuel clashed repeatedly on a host of issues during Quinn’s tenure as governor, which coincided with much of Emanuel’s first term.

“Quinn is just trying to mask the fact that he screwed up in his court case. … He failed to provide process and his petition is being thrown out,” the Emanuel adviser said.

“If you’re unable to remember to send a copy in the mail of the paperwork to the objectors in the case, what would you do to try and save face? Claim credit that the mayor dropped out. It’s not credible. Did he call you up and tell you that two weeks ago? Or did he tell you that after his court case got thrown out?”

Attorney Mike Kasper, who represented Emanuel in the infamous residency case before his first term, was “extremely confident” he would have won the Circuit Court case, the Emanuel adviser said.

“The judge never even got to any of that because [Quinn] didn’t do the most basic part of the procedure, which is telling your opponent that you’re suing him,” the source said.

Although Quinn argued otherwise, his term-limit referendum was widely viewed as an attempt to force his political nemesis into retirement.

On Thursday, the former governor was asked why he is pursuing the binding referendum, even though Emanuel is now a lame-duck.

“I believe in the policy of term limits and also of having an elected consumer advocate. Those are two important policies that New York City has had for quite some time. And they’ve worked out very well for the biggest city in America,” Quinn said.

“We’re trying to do the same thing here. Especially with an election coming up in February, it’s a perfect time to take a look at how Chicago government operates.”

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