When Pat Quinn assumed the Illinois governorship on January 29, 2009, it was a case of the right man taking charge at a critical time. Following the second consecutive Governor jailed on federal corruption charges, and the entire nation suffering economic meltdown, Quinn's 35 year career as political reformer, tireless champion for working people and squeaky clean advocate for effective government, was just what Illinois needed at that moment of crisis. And Quinn didn't disappoint. Even his harshest critic would concede Quinn righted the morally listing ship of state and has maintained that even keel for nearly four and a half years.
But that Job One which he did splendidly would not ensure his election to the Governorship outright just 21 months after assuming office. Having spent his entire career both in and out of office doing good works for all Illinoisans such as spearheading the cost saving reduction in the size of the state legislature, helping create the Citizens Utility Board to protect consumers interests, or seeking to amend the Illinois Constitution to increase the power of public referendums in both legislation and public official recall, Quinn hit the governorship ground running.
On the economic front he passed Illinois Jobs Now, the largest capital construction project ever, to support creation of 400,000 jobs over six years. He doubled the Illinois Earned Income Tax Credit, providing the largest tax relief for working families in Illinois history. He signed the Dream Act.
A true "green" Governor, Quinn led a $1 billion Illinois Clean Water Initiative to overhaul Illinois' aging water infrastructure, creating thousands of jobs. He launched the Illinois Millennium Reserve, the largest open space project in the country, to improve public recreation in the Calumet region.
Mindful of the need for ethics reform, Quinn passed and signed a new strong ethics code, enacted campaign contribution limits for the first time in Illinois history and abolished the much abused hundred year old political scholarship program.
A true friend to those whose rights are abridged or denied, Quinn strengthened women's' reproductive choice, championed family planning and access to reproductive health services, advocated tirelessly for marriage equality for gays, and finally achieved abolition of the death penalty.
Mindful of endless and senseless gun tragedies, Quinn proposed a ban on assault weapons and high capacity ammunition clips.
That aggressive program of plain ol' good governance did not go unnoticed by the electorate.
Pat Quinn confounded the pundits by being elected governor outright in 2010 against a Republican tide that brought fellow Midwestern states Wisconsin and Ohio extreme union busting and social safety net cutting governors who made their states a showcase of bad governance and job destruction.
But with election for a second full term just a year and a half away, speculation abounds concerning a Primary challenge from either former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley or Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. That would be a mistake. A Primary challenge would surely split Illinois Democrats and leave the winner wounded and bereft of finances to face a tough GOP foe in the general election. The most likely challenger, Attorney General Madigan would do well to consider second spot on the ticket as Quinn's Lt. Governor running mate. A Quinn-Madigan ticket would be tough to beat. It would unite Illinois Democrats behind a formidable pair, provide Illinois with an outstanding person to step up to Governorship if necessary, and provide Quinn and all Illinoisans with an equally tireless advocate to develop and implement a true People's Agenda. It would also make for a smooth transition to electing Illinois' first woman governor four years hence.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan is one very smart person. Uniting all Illinois Democrats behind the Pat Quinn, who has proved repeatedly he deserves a second term, might just be the smartest move she could make, for herself and for all of Illinois.