Quinn for mayor? Says he’ll decide by end of summer, sounds like he’s already in

The former governor donated to Lori Lightfoot’s campaign, spoke at a rally and put a Lightfoot sign in front of his Galewood home. But then she reneged on her campaign promise to fight for, and abide by, a two-term limit for Chicago mayors.

SHARE Quinn for mayor? Says he’ll decide by end of summer, sounds like he’s already in
Former Illinois governor Pat Quinn held a news conference outside the City Clerk’s office at City Hall on Tuesday, July 26, 2022.

Former Illinois Governor Pat Quinn speaks a news conference outside the City Clerk’s office at City Hall on Tuesday, shortly before filing a proposed ordinance supporting a ballot referendum to prevent any corporate sponsorship deal that would change the name of Soldier Field.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Former Illinois Governor Pat Quinn said Tuesday he will decide by the end of summer whether to join the crowded field of candidates seeking to deny Mayor Lori Lightfoot a second term. But it sure sounds like he’s in.

“I served as governor for six years at a very difficult time for our state. [Rod] Blagojevich was removed from office. The national economy was really going in the ditch. Our state budget was a mess,” Quinn told the Sun-Times.

“I navigated our state through that and I think I can navigate our city through its crisis right now. You’ve got to have people who know what they’re doing and believe in everyday voters of our city. ... Nobody left out when it comes to rescuing Chicago.”

Quinn supported Lightfoot over County Board President Toni Preckwinkle in the 2019 mayoral runoff.

He spoke at a Lightfoot campaign rally. He gave her a campaign contribution. He put a Lightfoot sign on the front lawn of his Galewood home.

But that was before Lightfoot reneged on her campaign promise to fight for and abide by a two-term limit for the mayor of Chicago. 

That forced Quinn to reprise the failed drive he waged four years ago — by introducing a citizen’s ordinance to get a binding referendum on the February ballot, imposing a two-term limit on Chicago mayors.

Now, Quinn calls Lightfoot a huge disappointment, in part because she broke that “solemn promise.”

“The 10 largest cities in America — every single one has a two-term limit on the mayor. Lori Lightfoot campaigned on that. ... I believed her. I actually asked her at a town meeting not too long ago, ‘How ’bout it? Let’s get going.’ And she scoffed at that,” the former governor said.

“She’s kind of losing track on who counts the most. It’s not people staying in their office, but rather the voters who were promised something that’s a reform.”

Quinn compared Lightfoot’s broken term-limits promise to the promise he made and kept after replacing Blagojevich: to champion a constitutional amendment allowing Illinois voters to recall their governor. 

“I got the House and the Senate to vote for that. I campaigned for it. And the voters approved a recall amendment. The mayor should have done that. Your personal credibility is very vital if you’re a mayor or governor or president of the United States,” he said.

That’s not Quinn’s only big beef with Lightfoot. So is her combative management style.

“You have to bring people together — not divide folks. It’s very important that we have everybody in and nobody feels left out. That was my philosophy as governor. That’s the best philosophy for a mayor. And too often, a lot of folks feel that they have been left out,” he said.

A lifelong Chicagoan who has lived in the same West Side home for 39 years, Quinn also took aim at violent crime and the perception of it that, polls show, is foremost on voters’ minds.

“It’s important that everybody feel their home, their personal safety is secure. And right now, far too many people — really hundreds of thousands of people in Chicago every night — are worried. That is not acceptable. We’ve got to have a mayor who has the confidence of the voters and trusts the voters,” he said. 

Former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., both considered challenging Lightfoot, only to take a pass — though both had polls showing the race was winnable.

They might have been discouraged by the diminishing powers of the mayor’s office. They might have been dissuaded by the intransigent problems of violent crime, education and city finances still plagued by the unsolved pension crisis.

Why, then, is a 73-year-old former governor undaunted by those same challenges?

“I played basketball last night at Union Park. A group of young people were playing next to me. They saw me shooting. They said, ‘Gee, that guy is making more than he’s missing,’ ” Quinn said proudly.

“They didn’t ask how old I was. They asked whether I could do the job — getting the ball in the basket.”

Quinn scoffed at those who say it’s getting late to enter the race.

Former Mayor Rahm Emanuel waited until September before choosing political retirement over the uphill battle for a third term. Former Mayor Richard M. Daley did the same before deciding not to seek a seventh term.

“There’s ample time to visit with as many people as possible,” Quinn said. “I’ve organized petition drives and campaigns for almost 50 years. I know how to organize people and movements to make a difference.”

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