GOVERNOR Pat Quinn struggled to assert his political authority and legislative agenda during the just completed spring session of the Illinois General Assembly, drawing public questioning of his political relevance by political commentators and Springfield observers.
To combat the image of shriveled gubernatorial relevance, Quinn last week held a combative press conference the day after the legislature adjourned, threatening to veto ComEd’s power grid upgrade legislation, complaining about the legislature’s rewrite of his budget plan, and criticizing a bill to dramatically expand Illinois gaming as “excessive”.
Within the gaming bill is a casino slated for Chicago that would likely generate $20 million monthly for Chicago’s depleted treasury that is facing a $700 million deficit in 2012. A casino is a top priority of Chicago’s new mayor, Rahm Emanuel.
When the Governor was reminded of Emanuel’s interest in the gaming legislation, Quinn responded, saying: “I’m beholden to the people of Illinois, not to legislators, not to mayors. The people of our state, all 13 million good and true, they’re the ones who I get up in the morning every day and say, ‘What’s best for them?’ ”
It was a clear shot at Emanuel.
Quinn understands that legislative support for the gaming bill—the first major expansion to be approved by the legislature 20 years—could likely unravel even with an amendatory veto that would spare Chicago’s casino.
Meanwhile, Quinn today appointed Emanuel’s top rival in the Chicago’s mayoral primary campaign, Gery Chico, as the new chief of the Illinois State Board of Education.
During the campaign against Emanuel, Chico, who once headed the Chicago Public Schools Board, criticized candidate Emanuel’s education plan as “light as cotton candy”.
Additionally, Chico was the first candidate in that election to launch an attack ad against an opponent, and the ad was against—you guessed it—Emanuel, slamming the former White House Chief of Staff for the “Rahm Tax.” Emanuel is not the forget and forgive type.
Quinn’s appointment of Chico may be an attempt to once again send the message that he is his own man and not beholden “to mayors” or anyone. On the other hand, the appointment could lack any sophisticated political calculation. Nevertheless, the impact could be the same—annoying the new guy on Chicago City Hall’s fifth floor.
Directly or indirectly challenging Emanuel to regain the political initiative may be a strategy that the Governor may come to regret.
Would you challenge Rahmbo?