Campaign for governor hits a few odd notes

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[To the tune of “Bill Bailey”]

Won’t you come home, Paul Vallas.

Won’t you come home.

You’re gone the whole day long.

Just try campaignin’ darlin’, Pat’ll pay the rent.

Your absence just seems wrong.

Does anybody even remember “Bill Bailey” any more, or am I showing my age again?

Gov. Pat Quinn would surely know the real words to that great American ragtime standard, but in truth, the governor isn’t the least bit concerned that the superintendent of the Bridgeport, Conn., school district is in no hurry to return home to Illinois to assume his responsibilities as Quinn’s running mate.

It sure seems odd to me. I can’t remember anything quite like it from a serious candidate.

Vallas finally got around Tuesday to releasing his official resignation letter from Bridgeport, stating he will leave the post effective March 1.

Presumably, Vallas will then parachute into his home state in time for less than three weeks of campaigning for lieutenant governor before the primary election on March 18. I know there’s been a lot of talk in recent years about the need to shorten political campaigns, but that’s taking it to the extreme.

The Quinn campaign would hasten to emphasize there is not much need for Vallas’ presence in Illinois before March with the governor in fairly certain shape to advance to the November election. 

They say Quinn is more than happy to allow Vallas to complete his transition in Bridgeport, where by the way, the local school board can’t get rid of him fast enough.

Vallas was too busy Tuesday to talk about the situation, but his lawyer sent word the former Chicago Public Schools CEO “does not want to leave the Bridgeport school system in the lurch.”

To the contrary, Bridgeport school board member Andre Baker Jr. told me Tuesday the board had been hoping to have Vallas removed by Feb. 7 at the latest by holding him to Dec. 9 as the date he gave his 60-day notice. Vallas maintains the 60 days didn’t start running until Dec. 31.

I would guess that what is really happening, at least in part, is that Vallas is trying to squeeze every last $4,500 weekly paycheck he can out of the taxpayers of Connecticut before he starts the campaign, which will leave him with no source of income unless he continues to do some consulting work on the side.

I’m honestly not too worked up about this.

Nobody should be deciding the 2014 gubernatorial election based on the lieutenant governor candidates, and even if they should, Vallas will hold his own with the Republican alternatives.

On top of that, with the Republicans veering ever closer to nominating a guy whose goal is to become the first owner of Illinois, I can’t really blame Quinn for hiring out of state for a running mate.

Still, it seems as if Vallas and Quinn are taking Illinois voters a bit for granted if they think they can just bring Vallas back and reset the clock to 2002 when he lost the Democratic nomination for governor to Rod Blagojevich.

Sure, a lot of folks would like to have a do-over for that election, but that’s not going to translate into votes in 2014.

In the intervening years, Vallas has run the school systems in Philadelphia and New Orleans and even done some work in Haiti, all the while maintaining his family residence in Palos Heights.

Along the way, they tell me he has even managed to overcome his fear of flying that some felt held him back in that 2002 race, which probably came in particularly handy for his consulting gig in Haiti.

I’m not sure I’ve spoken with Vallas since 2009, when I took issue with his flirting with a conversion to the Republican Party so he could run for Cook County Board president. He wisely decided against it.

The governor’s folks say Quinn and Vallas have been meeting regularly on weekends and over the holidays during his return visits here. Just grab your banjo and sing after me:

Paul Vallas, won’t you please, Paul Vallas, won’t you please, 

Paul Vallas, won’t you please come home.

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