Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 12, 2016

Pat Quinn Could be Drag on Illinois Democrats

Pat Quinn

Schock, left, and Davis, watch Rauner fire up the crowd. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The national political tide isn’t looking good for Democrats, but in Illinois this November, down-ballot candidates have an even bigger problem: the drag of Gov. Pat Quinn.

The Land of Lincoln is a hotbed of political activity this cycle, with Democrats defending three freshmen House incumbents and looking to pick-off one more — Republican Rep. Rodney Davis in the ultra-competitive 13th District.

All but one of those races take place outside of Chicago’s Cook County — the last bastion of support for Quinn and one of just three counties he carried in the state when he narrowly won the role in 2010. That geography is bad news for Democrats looking to tamp down losses in the midterms.

There was no clearer example of Quinn’s problems than last week’s Illinois State Fair, where elected officials, political operatives and party insiders from both sides of the aisle descended upon the Springfield fairgrounds for each party’s respective day of rallies.

On Aug. 14, Republicans flocked to the fairgrounds to support Bruce Rauner, the party’s wealthy gubernatorial nominee who rolled up to the rally on his Harley Davidson and then delivered a red-meat speech going after Quinn in front of a fired up crowd of supporters.

It was a stark contrast from Democrats’ gathering the day before, where instead of riling up his base at the fair, Quinn instead hosted a low-key picnic to pose for photos with a more mellow group of supporters, many of whom were bussed in from the Chicago area.

Perhaps because in 2012 he was booed off the stage at the traditional “Democrat Day” festivities at the Illinois State Fair  — “Governor’s Day,” as it’s now known — Quinn opted to deliver his own speech at a brunch for about 1,400 party insiders at Springfield’s Crowne Plaza Hotel.

Energy wasn’t the only thing missing from Quinn’s event: Absent from the Governor’s Day lineup were any of the three Democrats facing competitive re-elections in the Land of Lincoln: Reps. Cheri Bustos, Brad Schneider and Bill Enyart.

Bustos and Enyart hail from the northwest and southwest corners of the state, respectively. President Barack Obama carried their districts in 2012, but Quinn lost them by large margins two years earlier, and this fall is looking even more troubling for the governor.

Schneider is facing a rematch with former Rep. Bob Dold in the 10th District — the Republican he ousted in 2012 by a mere 1-point margin, even as Obama won there with 58 percent. The district is located in the northern Chicago suburbs, and while it votes Democratic in presidential cycles, it sent moderate Republican Mark S. Kirk to the House for five terms before he rose to the Senate.

Callis was the only candidate at the Quinn event. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Former Judge Ann Callis, the Democratic nominee taking on Rodney Davis in the Springfield-based 13th District this fall, attended the breakfast. But she did not speak, nor did she bring with her any sort of large presence of supporters or staff to boost her candidacy.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin and Reps. Danny K. Davis, Robin Kelly and Tammy Duckworth, mingled with party leaders and other local activists as forks clinked on buffet breakfast plates in the voluminous ballroom. The Democrats were put on the defensive trying to explain to the local media who showed up at the breakfast why Quinn’s unpopularity wouldn’t be a drag on their party throughout the state.

Durbin said the populist message of the Illinois Democratic Party to raise the minimum wage and provide access to affordable health care would resonate with voters at the polls.

“When you have two multimillionaires running at the top of the ticket who are spending huge sums of money, it’s going to change the equation, and so the rest of us have a little more of an uphill battle when it comes to the election,” Durbin said of wealthy dairy magnate and perennial Republican candidate Jim Oberweis. He spoke to a gaggle of reporters, waiting outside the Crowne Plaza for Quinn to arrive for the event that morning.

While vulnerable Democrats avoided sharing the spotlight with Quinn during their day at the fair, GOP candidates and elected officials clamored to share a stage with Rauner. They included Kirk, Rep. Aaron Schock and Rodney Davis, and each talked more about Rauner and a rising Republican tide in this traditionally blue state than they did about Obama.

GOP operatives say Rauner has pledged millions of his vast personal fortune to build up a unified ground operation in the state — an effort the flailing state Republican Party has been unable to do for two decades.

“We pretty much have seen the Democratic Party collapse south of I-80 in central and southern Illinois,” Kirk, dressed down in a red polo and khakis, told CQ Roll Call before his speech at the fair. “Enyart would be in real trouble because he’s very far south. The whole trend of the south being Republican has also affected Illinois.”

Schock said Quinn’s unpopularity will boost former Rep. Bobby Schilling, running against Bustos in a 17th District rematch, and state Rep Mike Bost, who is challenging Enyart in the rural downstate 12th District.

“[The] top of the ticket on our side is a lot more attractive than Pat Quinn,” Schock said, wearing a fitted t-shirt emblazoned with Rauner’s name. “You do not see Cheri Bustos or Bill Enyart wanting to do anything with Pat Quinn. He’s the most unpopular governor in America; who wants to wrap their arms around that?”

Rauner greets voters after arriving on a motorcycle. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Quinn is, in fact, one of just two incumbent Democratic governors projected to lose their seats, with his race rated a Tilts Republican contest by The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.

A former lieutenant governor to then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Quinn first ascended to the office in 2009, when Blagojevich was removed from the governor’s mansion after his arrest, indictment and later conviction on a host of bribery and corruption charges.

Since then, Quinn has taken heat from both parties in the state for being unable to fix an estimated $100 billion unfunded public pension system, a problem that is bankrupting the state.

To be sure, while Quinn remains unpopular throughout the state, Rauner has his own vulnerabilities that Democrats hope could stave off sweeping losses across the state.

Worth a reported $1 billion, Rauner is facing intense scrutiny from the media for not releasing his tax returns — a theme Democrats push every chance they get on the trail.

Quinn made his argument against his rival during the Democratic breakfast.

“I have one house. I’m lucky to have one house. I’ve been in it for 31 years. I’m running against somebody with nine mansions. I have three credit union accounts and one checking account,” Quinn said. “I’m running against somebody who has more money than King Midas and likes to stash some of it in a place called the Cayman Islands. That isn’t what Illinois is about.”

It’s a similar playbook his party used against GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012.

And Rauner has widely criticized public employee unions, while listing Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels as a role model — the governor who helped ban collective bargaining in the neighboring state. That is unlikely to curry favor for Rauner with the state’s robust unions, known for turning out voters on Election Day.

Jill Phillips, a Republican and member of the SEIU local 73 in Rockford, Ill., made the trip downstate to Quinn’s Governor’s Day appearance at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Springfield. She said she is frustrated with what she sees as Rauner’s attack on her fellow union workers.

“I’m not against anyone having wealth. But for the everyday worker, he has made his focus on us, the people who get up every day that work by the hour, whether they’re union or non-union,” Phillips said. “I’ve grown up in a Republican family and I belong to a union. It seems like the platform of [Rauner’s] campaign is to come after us. And that’s why we’re down here to talk to Quinn.”

For his part, Rauner goes after Quinn as needing the boot, and suggests Democratic incumbents up and down the ballot should join him.

“Farmers know something real important. Farmers know that when you’ve got a crop planted in the field, the same crop year after year, you know what happens? Deterioration. No productivity. Ultimately the land gets damaged. You know what it’s time for folks? It’s time to rotate our crops in Springfield,” Rauner said, eliciting whoops and cheers from the crowd.

Some voters milling around the fair said they’re ready for something new — across the board.

“What I think Illinois needs is business, is jobs, is employment,” David Bruno, a Springfield-area resident and former union member, said near his 10-year-old daughter’s prize-winning pig in the fair’s swine barn. “Quinn has had his chance with a Democratic House and Senate. Rauner has a history of business, bringing business and being very successful. That is something we need.”


Related stories: 

NRCC Chairman to Fundraise for Illinois House Hopefuls 

Democrats Want Clinton Duo on the Trail

Republican Up in 12th District Internal Poll

Most Vulnerable House Members

Illinois Governor: Rating Change

Democrats Avoid Toxic Gubernatorial Race

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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  • NickP

    There was more about this in the IL GOP primary. Rauner won the GOP primary by only 3%. The runner up was Kirk Dillard who was supported by former Governor Jim Edgar.

  • aaron62287

    Rauner should have won by 20 points. The close race was caused by public union Democrats crossing the aisle in an attempt to sabotage the Republican primary and keep their corrupt hold of power in IL. Rauner is the government unions’ worse nightmare, if he wins IL might just have a future.

  • ID-2

    Illinois is Democratic because of Cook County and Cook County alone. Republicans won the suburbs and Collar Counties in 2010 but not by large enough margins. This time around the GOP needs massive margins in the suburbs and impressive turnout down south to stop Chicago from again electing their ilk to Springfield.

  • Slow Down

    Emily, as noted in the link below, that was an exceptionally lazy and misleading piece.

  • willicrom

    Yeah, a future like Kansas.

  • verelll

    Your time is unreasonable, thus is mine. So let me slice straight to the point. I have a 90% correctness exchanging framework exchanging oil prospects, knowing precisely which course oil is going to go before it goes there, and hit the nail on the head 90% of the time. sounds unthinkable right? Be that as it may give me a chance to ask you, in the event that it isn’t genuine, and you squander a short time of your time, that won’t be so awful, correct? Anyway imagine a scenario where what I’m stating is genuine. Would you truly like to miss the best open door you never longed for previously as a result of your own suspicion? Google Traders Superstore to know more.

  • aaron62287

    You realize IL’s credit rating is the WORST in the country right? Kansas was dropped one freaking level.

  • Mark

    Sadly Illinois is and will be ruled by the Oligarchs in Chicago.

  • kaydahl

    Willi……..we had massive tax HIKES in 2011. We were told they were temporary and would clear the backlog of unpaid bills and stablize the pension fund.

    WE HAVE HAD FIVE CREDIT DOWNGRADES SINCE THOSE TAX HIKES WERE IMPOSED. And now are told that what was promised to be temporary needs to be made permanent.

    I’ll take what’s happened in Kansas over what’s happened in IL.

  • Likely_Suspect

    Clean out the rats’ nest, take Springfield and insist Cook County go along – or else!

  • Al Kraus

    The more you get to know the DNC’s platform and their “accomplishments”…them more you (and THEM) want to get away from it!

  • whynenot

    After Quinn won in 2010, we left Illinois for good. It’s a state with good people but sick politics. As Mark Twain said, politicians are like diapers. They need to be changed often, and for the same reason.

  • meanmarine

    The Democrats in Cook County are masochists because each election year they keep on asking for more of the same. My guess is they do this so they can complain until the next election when they can start the cycle all over again.

  • Karl Browne

    Any party that would nominate Quinn not once but twice deserves to never hold power again. He’s a complete buffoon.

  • Crutch

    I cannot believe you idiots keep electing Durbin………………

  • phillyfanatic

    The Dems in every state lie, smear and use baloney not real state issues on every person life of every Pub pol. In illn. the voters need to stop voting for liberal Dems and get their state in order as well. Local, state and federal offices must not go Dem again or Ill. slips into a 3rd world status as so many Dem blue state urban areas are.

  • Larry

    All you need to have after your name is a D when running for office in Illinois. Most of the time you will win. Great people in Illinois but many are not very bright.

  • JustData

    As opposed to a future like Detroit.

  • JustData

    He’s apparently hoping for another Detroit instead. Sheesh.

  • aaron62287

    Yup, as JustData said, Detroit is the end result of every liberal Democrat experiment. No thanks.

  • aaron62287

    Or North Korea… takes more time though…

  • bowhowdy2

    Then cut Cook County loose! How hard is that? Just vote it out of the state — or make it join another state and move on. Problem solved.

  • NMSoxfan

    The reporter’s **conclusion** in the Capitol Fax you cite: “[T]here’s no doubt that Quinn will be a drag on most of these races, particularly Downstate contests, and those Dem candidates don’t wanna be seen anywhere near the guy. But [minor quibble].” He thinks Emily got it about 90% right, hardly “exceptionally lazy and misleading,” which, come to think of it, is a pretty good description of Obama.

  • Cade Yaeger

    There’s no material difference between today’s liberals and their marxist ancestors.

  • Mark

    Low info voters, government dependents and government unions….throw in the dead vote and it’s to much for downstate and the outlying areas to overcome.

  • Mickey Kovars

    Illinois could begin to liberate itself . . . or not .. .

  • Ed Ingraham

    I think we can all agree that the ideology of liberalism is a menace to mankind.

  • Caeser Flickerman

    Liberalism, like its marxist, socialist, and communist ancestors, is pretty much a cult. A weird cult.

  • Captain Hadley

    We should also remember that the ideology of liberalism is an ideology of nonsense.

  • Jack Ross

    Like today’s liberalism, the “big idea” of Marxism is the notion that a cabal of academics is somehow magically entitled to consciously direct the future of mankind.

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