Thursday, September 2, 2010

Nice guys finish last

Patrick J. Quinn, 61, first ambled onto Illinois’ political scene in 1973 as a staffer for then-governor Dan Walker. After Walker lost the 1976 Democratic primary for governor, Quinn began a series of petition drives, collecting signatures to increase the power of public referendums, give citizens the power to recall elected officials, stop legislators from taking their full salaries on their first day, and reduce the size of the state House of Representatives from 177 to 118. The latter two measures passed, giving Quinn an image as a populist reformer to some and a troublemaker to others. The causes to which he clung decades ago still seem relevant, however, and a new constitutional amendment to allow citizens to recall the governor will appear on the same ballot that asks voters whether Quinn deserves a full term.

Charlie Wheeler, a former journalist for the Chicago Sun-Times and current professor at the University of Illinois Springfield, says Quinn was seen as sort of a “gadfly” during his early days in Illinois politics because he often championed populist causes.

“When he won the 1990 Democratic primary for state treasurer, there was a lot of apprehension among politicians and curiosity among reporters as to whether Pat Quinn would behave himself on a statewide ticket,” Wheeler says. “To his credit, he did behave himself, and I think he did a good job as treasurer.”

Wheeler's comments were featured in a September 2, 2010, edition of the Illinois Times.

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