SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Pat Quinn Wednesday dismissed as “name-calling” a new ad from Republican Bruce Rauner, who resurrected the image and voice of Harold Washington attacking his onetime appointee whom the mayor later fired as “my greatest mistake in government.”
The Rauner television commercial is a near carbon copy of a 2010 ad by Quinn’s Democratic primary opponent, former Comptroller Dan Hynes, who was the first to repackage to voters the archived television interview with Washington.
Aiming to cut into Quinn’s support among African-American voters, Rauner also debuted a 60-second radio advertisement, using portions of the TV segment with the late mayor.
“I must have been blind or staggering,” Washington said in the ad that aired in November 1987 on WGN-TV. “I would never appoint Pat Quinn to do anything. Pat Quinn is a totally and completely undisciplined individual who thinks this government is nothing but a large easel by which he can do his PR work.”
The WGN interview aired just two weeks before Washington’s death. Quinn, regarded originally as an up-and-coming government reformer, was brought on by Washington in 1986 to clean up the city’s scandal-plagued Revenue Department. But Washington canned Quinn in June 1987, alleging that Quinn engaged in grandstanding and repeatedly ignored orders.
Asked Wednesday about the ad’s impact, Quinn made fun of Rauner for espousing a whole array of policy positions that likely would run afoul of what the late mayor stand for if he were alive today.
“Consider the source,” Quinn said of Rauner. “We’re talking about a person who on his executive staff had zero African-Americans out of 51 people. We’re also talking about my opponent who wants to eliminate the minimum wage, doesn’t believe in providing care under the Affordable Care Act, thousands of people in Illinois. I think the issues are the ones that count the most.
“If the other side wants to engage in one name-calling thing after another, that’s the way they want to do it, I guess. But I believe in raising the minimum wage, alleviating poverty. I believe in providing decent health care to everybody. And I believe in making sure we have good jobs for people who want to work hard,” the governor told reporters after announcing a $1.2 million state grant to help open a homeless shelter in downtown Springfield.
Quinn also insisted that he made peace with the mayor before his death, despite the harsh words that now echo on the 2014 campaign trail from the late mayor’s grave.
“I served as the revenue director of the city of Chicago. I always did the right thing. My conscience is clear,” Quinn said. “The last day I talked to Harold Washington, he said, ‘Quinn, you’re my friend. You’ll always be my friend. Some day we’ll have a drink about this.’ There are people on his staff I didn’t get a long with and who didn’t like me, and that’s the way it was.”
Quinn also enlisted backing from a bloc of African-American and Latino officeholders to ridicule Rauner’s use of Washington’s words. U.S. Reps. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., Robin Kelley, D-Ill., Danny Davis, D-Ill., Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle were among signatories on a joint statement condemning the ad.
“Harold Washington would be rolling over in his grave to see this desperate commercial run by a billionaire who didn’t hire a single African-American executive at his own business and who wants to eliminate the minimum wage,” the group said in their statement distributed by Quinn’s campaign. “Those who remember and loved Harold Washington know that he spent his entire career fighting against the Republican, anti-worker, benefit-the-rich policies that Bruce Rauner wholly represents.”
Meanwhile, on another issue Wednesday, Quinn expressed openness toward Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s call for Illinois lawmakers to loosen drug laws for low-level possession of narcotics like marijuana.
“I think that’s worthy of looking at,” the governor said. “It’s basically something I think the Legislature should have hearings on. I think a lot of people should have input on. I do think that it’s worthy of consideration. I’ve talked privately to him about it. He told me about his ideas. I think they’re worth considering and definitely worth reviewing.”